Bad news for Timberwolves. Plus, making sense of Warriors-Bucks + meet the next Wemby?

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Nikola Vučević will not let you lose your phone in a fight.

Fresh Questions From a Warriors Beatdown

Have Warriors, Bucks found forms?

The Warriors (33-28, ninth in West) absolutely housed the Bucks (41-22, second in East) last night in San Francisco. Milwaukee gave the occasional sign of life early in the third quarter by finding its rhythm, getting some stops and making the Warriors doubt themselves. But the Bucks ended up scoring only nine points in the fourth quarter and just 32 in the second half. Golden State kicked their teeth in with a total team effort once known as Warriors basketball, winning 125-90.

The Bucks had won six straight games entering last night, with two of those being impressive victories over the Wolves and Clippers. The defense the Bucks lacked under Adrian Griffin was taking form under Doc Rivers. And yet, the Warriors obliterated Milwaukee. Everything was there for the Warriors, so it’s all concerning stuff the Bucks might not be able to handle.

The Bucks have mostly thrived during this stretch against stagnant offenses that don’t move much. The Warriors embodied everything we’ve known about them from the last decade, with their ball movement leading to crossed signals by the Bucks’ defense. Golden State won in paint points (54-36) and 3-point shooting (19 to 11 made 3-pointers), leaving Milwaukee with left pointing fingers and complaining to refs.

Milwaukee didn’t take care of business with simple things. It had long first-half stretches of Klay Thompson guarding Brook Lopez, and only once did they take him to the post. The Bucks had no flow to their own offense and just watched Giannis Antetokounmpo or Damian Lillard go to work. The pick-and-roll put no pressure on a mediocre Warriors defense.

Moving forward:

  • The Bucks are chalking it up to one bad game. The East is open for the Bucks, but they must hope that’s not who they are in the playoffs.
  • The Warriors had a lot of rest in the final period and left knowing how their healthier selves can hopefully look down the rest of the way. Golden State seems to know its identity, but it might be too late to matter in the West.

Read More: Anthony Slater on the Warriors’ impressive victory.

The Latest From Shams

Timberwolves’ Towns out indefinitely

Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns tore the meniscus in his left knee and is out indefinitely, league sources said Thursday.

Towns, who was an All-Star for the fourth time last month, has been gathering second opinions on the injury over the past 24 hours, those sources said. The 7-footer is averaging 22.1 points and 8.4 rebounds per game this season for Minnesota, which entered Thursday with a 43-19 record and tied atop the Western Conference with Oklahoma City.

We’ll continue to provide updates at The Athletic as we gather more info about the injury and what this means for the Timberwolves.

A Hilarious Kerfuffle

Nikola Vucevic made JazzBulls beef amazing

At the end of last night’s Bulls-Jazz game, Collin Sexton fouled DeMar DeRozan with 9.1 seconds left and Chicago up one. It happened right in front of the Bulls’ bench, and DeRozan appeared to grab at his own face because of the hit. Torrey Craig (not in uniform) immediately got into it with Sexton. Then, John Collins stepped in as the designated big guy on the Jazz. That’s when things got chippy.

Bulls assistant coach Chris Fleming started jostling with Collins as shoving commenced. Kris Dunn and Andre Drummond got very upset, but thankfully nothing bad happened that would lead to any ejections or suspensions for the players (we think).

However, one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen in an altercation happened. It’s something I definitely have never seen before, but it honestly makes me think so much more of Nikola Vučević as a teammate. Watch what happens as he’s walking up to the two groups of giants making sure nobody fights.

Yes, Vučević picked up a cellphone that had fallen on the ground. It might have been Craig’s. It was definitely someone from the Bulls who dropped it when the pushing and shoving started.

Clarkson would make a technical free throw to tie the game before DeRozan made his two free throws. Then, the Jazz (28-35, 11th in West) missed two 3-pointers that would have won it. Chicago (30-32, ninth in East) won 119-117 to stay two games ahead of Atlanta.

More from last night: 

Magic 119, Wizards 109: The Wizards (9-53, last in East) had a 21-point first-half lead before losing their 16th straight game. They’re 11 more consecutive losses away from taking a 27-game losing streak into a home game against the Pistons (9-52, 14th in East) in March. Do you remember the Pistons’ losing 28 straight games earlier this season?

Hawks 112, Cavs 101: Cleveland scored 40 in the third but only 12 in the fourth before falling to a Hawks team led by Saddiq Bey (23 points) and Bogdan Bogdanović (23).

Grizzlies 115, 76ers 109: Still no Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey for Philadelphia, which has lost 14 of its last 20. The 76ers (35-27) are seventh in the East.

Clippers 122, Rockets 116: The Clip Show needed a 78-59 second half led by Kawhi Leonard and James Harden to overcome 23 points, 19 rebounds and 14 assists from Alperen Şengün. The Rockets (27-35, 12th in West) are six games behind the last Play-In spot.

Thunder 128, Blazers 120: Portland (17-44, 14th in West) put up a great fight to the end, but OKC (43-19, second in West) was fueled by 89 points from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (37), Jalen Williams (31) and Chet Holmgren (21).

Kings 130, Lakers 120: De’Aaron Fox dropped 44 on the Lakers (34-30, 10th in West), who now probably won’t catch Sacramento (35-26, seventh in West).

The Next Wemby?

Khaman Maluach > Cooper Flagg?

You might be asking yourself, “Who in the Priest Lauderdale is Khaman Maluach?” I’m so glad you asked that. I was asking that same thing to myself recently, except I used Pavel Podkolzin as my obscure big man reference instead of Lauderdale. Joe Vardon recently introduced us to Maluach, which he informed us is pronounced “Mah-lu-watch” for our speaking expertise.

He’s a 7-foot-2, agile, South Sudanese big man, who is playing the part as the next Victor Wembanyama in draft prospect speculation. First and foremost, he’s not looking like the next Wemby. That was subheader bait by us! And you fell for it! That’s OK, though. The intrigue is there, with plenty room to grow. Maluach told Vardon he might grow two more inches, which would put him at the listed height of Wemby (7-4).

Maluach’s movement is not as fluid as the French phenom, so his skills aren’t nearly as developed. But there’s so much potential there. He announced yesterday he’s headed to Duke to play alongside Cooper Flagg, who is projected as the top pick in the 2025 draft.

Maluach (projected top five) could surpass Flagg if his skills and coordination translate to performing well in the college basketball environment. He can handle the ball pretty well. His shot is solid. He’s nimble and a good shot-blocker. Maluach learned basketball from watching YouTube videos of Giannis, Embiid and Kevin Durant. Plus, everybody raves about his work ethic. He’s a product of the NBA Academy in Africa, and someone who first played in Crocs because he didn’t have shoes that fit.

You’ll see Maluach showcased at Duke soon enough. And then, you’ll see his name called by Adam Silver early one night in June 2025. We just don’t know if it’ll be before or after Flagg.

Bounce Passes

If you only read one thing today, make it Jason Quick’s profile on Tom Meschery.

The Mavericks should be better than this. The clock is ticking.

Is Jusuf Nurkić the key to the Suns making a deep run?

Screen Game (All times Eastern)

  • Main Screen: Celtics-Nuggets (10 p.m. TNT). This one will determine the 2024 NBA Finals winner – maybe.
  • Second Screen: Heat-Mavs (7:30 p.m. TNT). Miami won the title in 2006. Dallas won in 2011. The winner gets the other’s banner.
  • League Pass Game of the Night: Wolves-Pacers (7 p.m.). Best defense in the league against the league’s second-best offense. Full schedule here.

(Top photo: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images )

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