NBA-best Bucks take on struggling Timberwolves

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The Milwaukee Bucks own the best record in the NBA and have matched the top 35-game start in franchise history.

But star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t all that impressed by the 30-5 start.

“We won 30 games before January — it’s cool, but we can always do better,” Antetokounmpo told reporters on Monday. “We’ve got to keep improving because the goal is to play late in the season.”

The Bucks seek victory No. 31 on Wednesday when they host the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Milwaukee’s start matches the 1971-72 squad that included Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson. That team finished 63-19 and lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference finals.

Of course, these Bucks lost to the Toronto Raptors in last season’s Eastern Conference finals and want to take the next step.

Antetokounmpo also wants to stay healthy. The reigning NBA MVP missed two games with a back injury before returning to record 23 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in just 27 minutes of Monday’s 123-102 road victory over the Chicago Bulls.

“I think one of the toughest parts of being an athlete is when you’re hurting and you want to play and that’s pushing you back,” Antetokounmpo said. “But at the end of the day, I try to listen to my body, try to take care of it as much as possible.

“I think I’ve got great people around me — teammates, coaching staff, training staff — I feel like they’re going to tell me the truth, they’re going to tell me to relax or if I’m good, just go out there and play.”

Forward Khris Middleton scored 25 points against the Bulls. Point guard Eric Bledsoe returned from a fractured right leg and had 15 points in 16 minutes. Bledsoe missed the previous eight games.

“We move way faster with him,” Antetokounmpo said of Bledsoe. “He’s like a sports car. He goes so fast, and we’ve got to follow him. It’s always good to have him back.”

The Bucks routed the Timberwolves 134-106 in Minneapolis on Nov. 4 and have won nine of the past 11 meetings. Antetokounmpo recorded 34 points and 15 rebounds, Middleton added 26 points and Bledsoe tallied 22 in the earlier meeting.

Forward Andrew Wiggins scored 25 for Minnesota but it isn’t yet known if he will play in the rematch. Wiggins has missed the past two games due to illness.

Center Karl-Anthony Towns (knee) has missed the past seven games and it doesn’t appear as if he will play Wednesday.

Not having their top two players didn’t bother the Timberwolves on Monday as they posted a 122-115 overtime win over the visiting Brooklyn Nets. The victory was just the club’s second in the past 14 games.

“It was a good win,” Minnesota big man Gorgui Dieng said. “How we played with that energy. We didn’t quit when we was down, and we come out with a victory.”

Dieng collected a season-best 20 rebounds — one shy of his career high — to go with 11 points. Guard Shabazz Napier scored a season-high 24 points, and rookie guard Jarrett Culver had a personal-best 21.

“That was a heart game,” Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders told reporters. “They knew there were going to be opportunities, and guys took advantage of it. I think there were a number of things that you can point to that have to make you feel good.”

Minnesota last won back-to-back games on Nov. 25 (Atlanta Hawks) and Nov. 27 (San Antonio Spurs). They lost 11 straight after those wins before winning two of its last three games.

–Field Level Media

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