Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Milwaukee Bucks Preview (12/30/22): Prediction, Odds, Starting Lineups

The Minnesota Timberwolves (16-19) take on the Milwaukee Bucks (22-12) Friday night. Karl-Anthony Towns, Taurean Prince, and Jordan McLaughlin are out for Minnesota, and Kyle Anderson is questionable. For the Bucks, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday are out while George Hill is doubtful. 

Can the Timberwolves end their four game skid with a statement win on the road? Odds, predictions, key matchups, and starting lineups are below.

Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Milwaukee Bucks Betting Odds

The Bucks are rightfully favored here as the spread is -6 with their moneyline at -230. Minnesota’s moneyline is +205, so they must win 33% of the time to be profitable long-term. The 227 over under is in the middle of the pack for Friday games. It’s worth noting that the over is 5-2 in Minnesota’s last seven road games and 7-1 in Milwaukee’s last eight home games. 

Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Milwaukee Bucks Prediction

Despite the absence of Middleton and Holiday, I am taking the Bucks to cover -6. 

Minnesota’s offense is most efficient in the following three areas: transition, cuts, and the screener rolling. Outside of those areas, Minnesota struggles to score because they are not a great outside shooting team or off the dribble scorers. What’s the common action of those three play types? Quick movements directly towards the basket. Unfortunately for Minnesota, achieving that goal will be laborious all game. 

The Bucks rank 5th in transition defense, 10th in roll man defense, and 3rd in cut defense. With Lopez and Giannis guarding the rim, it’s extremely difficult for opponents to not only create high shot quality but even to simply get a shot off. Given Gobert’s lack of aggression and anchoring in the paint, the Bucks should have no problem defending the paint with Lopez stationed there. Therefore, Minnesota needs to mostly score from jump shots, which is not an appealing thought. 

The Timberwolves are 20th in 3PA and 22nd in 3PT%. While Holiday’s absence is a boon for their ball handlers, Jevon Carter may be just as imposing of a perimeter defender. He will neutralize Russell and remove a key shooter, so Anthony Edwards won’t have much help around him. If Edwards struggles with efficiency or the Timberwolves cannot get out in transition, then their offense may be anemic. 

On the other end, Milwaukee’s offense has been utterly inadequate. Despite Giannis threatening to go nuclear every game, the Bucks rank 21st in Offensive Rating. Holiday and Middleton’s absence doesn’t bode well for them, but there are a few avenues the Bucks can take to exploit Minnesota. The Timberwolves protect the rim well due to Gobert, but their perimeter defense needs serious upgrades. Russell and Rivers are poor defenders while Edwards remains wildly inconsistent. Milwaukee will be able to create open three-pointers, and their shooters are far more talented than their 21st 3PT% indicates. Lopez’s extended range will also often remove Gobert from the paint, so Giannis should have a field day inside. 

Overall, the Bucks possess the tools to limit Minnesota’s offense while being able to create on the other end. Milwaukee also plays drastically better at home where they own a 14-3 record, 117.9 Offensive Rating, and 108.1 Defensive Rating. And although this factor may be a myth, I expect the Bucks to be hyper-determined to bounce back from their overtime loss versus Chicago. 

Betting Trends

  • Timberwolves are 2-5 ATS in their last 7 road games
  • Over is 5-2 in Timberwolves last 7 road games
  • Bucks are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 home games
  • Over is 7-1 in Bucks last 8 home games

Key Matchups

Which team will win the key matchups? Check out below for these vital battles.

Bench Battle

The Timberwolves bring plenty of firepower off the bench with Nowell, Forbes, Knight, and Reid. However, the same could be said of Milwaukee’s depth, as Portis, Matthews, Ingles, and Beauchamp bring a diverse set of skills. To me, this battle will come down to how efficient Nowell is and whether Portis or Reid win the head to head matchup. I would consider this overall unit matchup a wash, but Minnesota has a solid chance to cover if they convincingly win the bench minutes.

Free Throws

The Bucks are 2nd in opponent free throw rate, while the Timberwolves rank 23rd. Free throws inherently hold an absurdly high expected points per possession, so Minnesota cannot bail out Milwaukee’s offense by sending them to the charity stripe. In addition, it would likely be their demise if Gobert racks up fouls because the Bucks would then be unstoppable in the paint. For the Timberwolves to cover, they must play disciplined defense and end up even in this department.

Minnesota Timberwolves Starting Lineup

PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Austin Rivers
SF: Anthony Edwards
PF: Jaden McDaniels
C: Rudy Gobert

Milwaukee Bucks Starting Lineup

PG: Jevon Carter
SG: Grayson Allen
SF: Pat Connaughton
PF: Giannis Antetokounmpo
C: Brook Lopez

Key Injuries

Minnesota Timberwolves Injuries: Karl-Anthony Towns (O), Taurean Prince (O), Jordan McLaughlin (O), Kyle Anderson (Q)

Milwaukee Bucks Injuries: Khris Middleton (O), Jrue Holiday (O), George Hill (D)

Braxton has been covering the NBA for Lineups since the 2022 season. He's worked with multiple collegiate coaching staffs regarding analytics and scouting, which has allowed him to understand the game on a deeper level. Braxton is also a contributor at Thunderous Intentions.

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