MINNEAPOLIS — The Timberwolves won their 11th consecutive home game Thursday night at star-splashed Target Center and avoided a three-game losing streak for the seventh consecutive time this season, in prevailing 108-89 over Milwaukee.
The Bucks were a perfect 4-0 and hadn't lost since they fired coach Jason Kidd 10 days earlier, but this time the Wolves built a lead of at least 20 points. Unlike a late December game when they did the same and then lost all of the lead and the game, this time the Wolves won wire-to-wire.
They did so with New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, boxer Floyd Mayweather and rapper Gucci Mane watching on from courtside, just three days before Sunday's Patriots-Philadelphia Eagles play the Super Bowl at U.S. Bank Stadium.
They did so with star Jimmy Butler's 28-point night that came after he missed four of his first five shots and then made seven of his next 10. Teammate Karl-Anthony Towns added yet another double-double, 24 points and 11 rebounds.
Khris Middleton led the Bucks with 21 points and upcoming All-Star Game starter Giannis Antetokounmpo had his own 17-point, 15-rebound double-double on a night when the Wolves used Butler, Taj Gibson and Andrew Wiggins to defend him at different times.
After they fired Kidd with a 23-22 record, the Bucks beat Phoenix that very same night, then defeated Brooklyn, Chicago and a Philadelphia team missing star center Joel Embiid.
OK, so not exactly Murderer's Row, but those still are four consecutive victories for a team that had lost six of their last eight games under Kidd before that.
The Bucks promoted assistant coach Joe Prunty for the rest of the season and did so during a stretch where they had three days off before they played Brooklyn and two days off before Thursday's game.
The Wolves, meanwhile, didn't have more than a day off between 17 games they played in January alone.
Before Thursday's game, Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said he sees "subtle changes" in what Prunty has done since he replaced Kidd.
"I hated to see Jason go because I think he's terrific," Thibodeau said. "But that's the unfortunate part of this business. Joe's a good man."
The last time these teams played, the Wolves led by the Bucks by 20 points midway through the third quarter at Milwaukee in late December ... and 102-96 after they were outscored 48-22 to end the game.
This time, the Wolves led by as many as 23 points in the second quarter and by 24 shortly after halftime.
This time, though, there was no giving back all they had gained.
The Bucks never pulled closer than 12 points the rest of the way and that came after former Wolves guard Sean Kilpatrick's 3-point shot brought them within 73-61 late in the third quarter.
But Butler answered by scoring the next four points on two shots from the baseline and Tyus Jones scored on a drive with 30 seconds left in the third.
That 6-0 mini-run pushed the Wolves' lead right back 79-61 after three quarters. They led 87-64 with 9:09 remaining in the game and the Bucks never drew closer than 16 points again.
The Wolves now are 7-0 in games this season after they have lost two consecutive games.
They remained perfect Thursday by following losses at Atlanta on Monday and at Toronto on Tuesday with a wire-to-wire victory that keeps their longest losing streak this season at a mere two games.
Asked to what he attributes such resiliency, Thibodeau went back to his basics and said, "Just understand what goes into winning. You want to build the right habits. You want to have consistency."
The Wolves also still haven't lost a home game since Dec. 16 against Phoenix. The Wolves went 1-8 on the road in January, but just keep on winning at home.
"I don't know, maybe we play a little tougher at home, a little harder at home, which is great," Butler said. "But we need to play the same way on the road. All you ever want to do is win. We've done a great job of that at home these last however many games. We just to have to do better overall. We need to protect our home floor."