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Defense gets tough in fourth quarter as Bucks shake off Timberwolves

The Milwaukee Bucks finally got defensive in the fourth quarter, and that was enough.

The Bucks allowed just six points in the first 7 1/2 minutes of the fourth quarter and pulled away for a 140-128 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves Saturday night at Fiserv Forum.

Through three quarters, the Milwaukee defense had been shredded for 109 points on 53.6% shooting (42 for 78). In the fourth quarter, the Timberwolves made just 8 of 24 shots (33.3%).

With the defense finally stingy in those first 7 1/2 minutes of the fourth, the Bucks outscored the Timberwolves, 22-6, to turn a two-point deficit into a 129-115 lead. Andrew Wiggins banked in a 3-pointer to stop Milwaukee’s momentum, and Derrick Rose’s 18-footer pulled Minnesota within single digits, but Giannis Antetokounmpo swished his third 3-pointer of the night, and that was it.

Khris Middleton led the Bucks with 28 points, and Antetokounmpo finished with 27 points and 10 rebounds. Brook Lopez added 19, Nikola Mirotic chipped in 17, and guards Malcolm Brogdon and Eric Bledsoe added 16 each on a big night for the offense.

The Bucks also went 21 of 22 from the free throw line, with the lone miss coming from Brogdon, the league’s leading free throw shooter.

Lopez finished with four blocked shots, including two in the fourth quarter as Minnesota went 1 for 10 after making its first two shots of the fourth quarter. The Timberwolves (28-31) also committed four of their 10 turnovers in the first 7 1/2 minutes of the fourth, After going 11 for 19 on 3-pointers in the first three quarters, the Timberwolves made just 1 of 7 — Wiggins’ banked-in shot — in the final 12 minutes.

Rose led Minnesota with 23 points off the bench on 10-of-15 shooting. The Minnesota bench made 27 of 43 shots (62.8%), but the starters went just 23 for 59 (39%). Taj Gibson added 20 points.

Minnesota played without Karl-Anthony Towns, its leading scorer and rebounds. Towns sat out his second straight game with a concussion after being involved in a car accident on Thursday as he was being driven to the airport for the team’s Friday night game in New York.

The Bucks (45-14) won their fourth straight game and 14th in their last 16 games.

Milwaukee begins a five-game road trip in Chicago on Monday before four games out along the West Coast.

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