The Milwaukee Bucks are the second-youngest team in the league, only older than the one-win Philadelphia 76ers. The Bucks are the kind of team with enough talent to make things interesting on any given night … along with the consistency, decision-making and long-range shooting of a team that could lose by 18 to the Lakers. That’s exactly what happened to the Bucks on Tuesday, although several members of Milwaukee’s rotation visited an L.A. strip club that morning. That decision may have led to such an embarrassing loss, who knows.
The Bucks don’t have any problems with motivation when they face the Warriors. Their win on Saturday to end the Warriors’ winning streak was cause for celebration, and Golden State didn’t appreciate how the Bucks rejoiced.
Off the court, Bucks fans wore “24-1” across their chests on Saturday, and Warriors fans followed suit with “10-18” shirts of their own on Friday night.
And with the champs’ resentment right there for the world to see, thanks to quotes from players like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green between Saturday’s game and Friday night’s rematch in Oakland, the betting line for the “rematch” ballooned to almost 20. Just about everyone expected a duplicate version of the massacre we saw on Wednesday night, when the Suns took a four-point second quarter lead and found themselves down by 40 after less than 18 minutes.
A trademark Golden State rout didn’t happen on Friday, as the Bucks held an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter. The Warriors came back and won, thanks mostly to Green’s all-around brilliance, which included eight straight points (capped by a Curry-like three from 26 feet out). 10 fourth quarter points from Curry didn’t hurt, either. Green and Curry also came up with the assists of the night — Green a touch pass from the top of the arc to Festus Ezeli under the basket, and Curry’s one-handed dime to Andre Iguodala, whose rainbow corner three put the Warriors up by seven with just over a minute left.
Golden State’s title “defense”
The final score was 121-112, which sounds perfectly satisfactory on its own. But they allowed the Bucks (29th in points, 26th in offensive efficiency) to do close to whatever they liked in the first half. Milwaukee scored 70 points in the first two quarters while making only two threes. How? They shot 59.5% from the floor, 18-for-21 from the line, and out-rebounded the Warriors by six. Milwaukee’s outburst was partly due to them making more midrange shots than normal, and Michael Carter-Williams made the most of his spot in the starting lineup with penetration that Curry and the Warriors handled poorly (Carter-Williams was clearly peeved by Green’s comments earlier in the week about getting demoted this season).
The Warriors clearly overlooked the Bucks — twice — and that’s completely normal. The regular season is ridiculously long, and the Bucks have the fifth-worst record and third-worst net rating in the league. Plus, everyone figured Greg Monroe was too hurt to play (he ended up with 10 and 13, but was a team-worst -16 on the night). But whether the streak tired the Warriors out, or their rotations are a little off due to Harrison Barnes missing all these games, or Andrew Bogut isn’t quite feeling like himself (he left the game early due to back pain, and don’t be surprised if he misses at least a couple games if not many more), the defense just doesn’t quite look the same.
That’s probably unfair, since their offensive rating is better than it was last year (114.8 points per 100 possessions in 2015-16 after 111.6 last season) and their defensive rating is the same (101.3 this season, 101.4 in 2014-15). Maybe it just seems like their defense has dipped slightly, only because they were tops in defensive rating in 2014-15 and this season they’re seventh. Or because they’ve allowed 110 points per game over their last 11.
It’s nitpicking, certainly. And as bad as their defense was in the first half, it was pretty danged good in the second half (the Bucks shot 34.9% and the Warriors out-rebounded them 29-18). Plus, they deserve a breather after what they did over the first 24 games, and there’s time to whittle down the rotations a bit. For one, the hockey-style substitutions might go away when Barnes returns, and we’ll see either Curry or Thompson on the floor for almost every competitive minute of each game. And if Bogut misses time, Mo Speights might start playing center again, which is where he flourished last season. They also play only three games in the next 10 days, all at home, and get four days off between Friday night’s win and a game against the Jazz.
Yeah, they’re probably fine. But 70 points in a half to a team that annoyed them to that degree? Something might be a little off … or they’re just an elite team that knows they can turn it on whenever they want, at least when they aren’t coming off a double-overtime game the night before.
Green vs. Mayo
I don’t have much to add on this, other than it was probably inevitable. Bogut got hit with a flagrant for knocking Carter-Williams to the floor in the first quarter, and Green got in a solid knock on MCW four minutes later (not a flagrant).
As the game ended, Green looked as happy as could be.
Game Recap: pic.twitter.com/J3vi4ov82Q
— LOLKNBR (@LOLKNBR) December 19, 2015
Within less than a minute, things changed.
Never a dull moment at Oracle pic.twitter.com/YK76QXuzJW
— warriorsworld (@warriorsworld) December 19, 2015
Draymond: “No man is going to touch my head” pic.twitter.com/gWKQJBXjoV
— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) December 19, 2015
Some context from Michael Carter-Williams on what led to Mayo stepping in pic.twitter.com/TGCmmEeRu1
— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) December 19, 2015
OK, fine. Golden State won’t face the Bucks again until November at the earliest, and by then the only story will be whether the Warriors are two-time defending champs. That will rest on whether the Warriors can play defense for 48 minutes against teams like the Spurs, Thunder and Cavs, and they won’t have to manufacture bulletin board material to get up for those teams.
— Curry played 39:20 and Green played 40:17. The upcoming rest should help, but the Warriors need better bench play.
— Bright side: James Michael McAdoo gave the Warriors some good minutes.
— Green had 21 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, barely missing out on his second consecutive triple double. Curry had 26/9/10, and he’s still looking for his first triple-double of the season. Triple-doubles are kind of fake-important (who’s going to turn down a 45/15/7 line, for instance), but admit it — they’re still kind of fun.
— Ezeli (and his agent) can’t be upset with how this season is going. He had 14 points (6-of-8 from the floor) and 10 rebounds and was +20. If Bogut misses more than a game or two, Ezeli might be Golden State’s starting center for a very long time. Like, multiple seasons.
— Iguodala seems tired. That’s hardly surprising after he played 44 minutes in that double-overtime game in Boston.
— I thought Bob Fitzgerald might storm the court when Tony Brothers put Ezeli on the foul line with 32.2 seconds remaining after that hug-foul by Jabari Parker. Yes, Parker’s intention was obvious. But Ezeli needs to get as far away from the ball as possible in those situations, otherwise officials will say Ezeli is screening for Curry, even if he’s not. Either way, it was pretty amusing to hear Fitz blow a gasket on the air.