January 08, 2015

An intriguing 6-foot-11 youngster plays for both the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Milwaukee Bucks - one at center and the other at point guard.

Minnesota's Karl Anthony-Towns should keep getting plenty of attention in the post and Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo is likely to continue handling the playmaking duties when the teams meet Friday night at the Bradley Center.

Anthony-Towns has started every game at center for the Timberwolves (19-42) since being drafted No. 1 overall last year. He appears to be the Rookie of the Year favorite, tied for fifth in the league with 35 double-doubles while averaging 17.3 points and 10.3 rebounds.

All that production, though, has caused opposing defenses to increase their focus on him. The 20-year-old has failed to reach 15 points in back-to-back games for the first time since mid-January, totaling 21 field-goal attempts and six free throws. Anthony-Towns attempted an average of 18.7 field goals and 6.3 free throws in the previous six games.

"I'm trying to attack, I'm trying to get to the rim," he said. "Doing things like that allows the court to be more open for my teammates."

Anthony-Towns said he was "catching the ball seeing about four people, three people at a time" very early in Wednesday's 104-98 home loss to Washington. Minnesota fell to 2-16 since the beginning of December when he has fewer than 15 points, though he grabbed 15 rebounds and tied a season high with five assists.

Antetokounmpo has averaged 7.8 assists in the Bucks' past five games, with coach and former point guard Jason Kidd giving the 21-year-old much of the ballhandling duties. Still, he remains a scoring threat and a force on the boards, averaging 17.9 points and 11.3 rebounds in his last eight.

''You can see that his leadership skills are starting to come out," said Kidd, who mentioned that Antetokounmpo's height allows him to see different passing lanes. "He has that skill of being able to find guys.''

The Greece native has topped 40 minutes in each of the last two games with backup point guard Michael Carter-Williams sidelined by patella tendinitis. It's unclear if he will return Friday.

Antetokounmpo was among six Bucks to score in double figures in a 95-85 win in Minnesota on Jan. 2.

Greg Monroe helped harass Anthony-Towns into one of his worst games as a pro - eight points on 4-of-17 shooting - while leading Milwaukee with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Monroe still sees significant playing time despite being relegated to the bench in early February but has gone a season-high five straight games without a double-double.

The Bucks (25-36) have won the past three meetings.

Both teams have lost three of four overall due greatly to poor defense. Milwaukee has allowed an average of 107.0 points in that span and has let three straight opponents hit at least 40 percent from 3-point range. Minnesota has given up more than 100 points in 12 consecutive games, yielding an average of 112.0, and allowed at least 10 3-pointers in each of the last five.

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