Warriors go back-and-forth with Bucks, Win 108-94
After a disappointing loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Golden State Warriors (33-9) flew to Wisconsin to take on the Milwaukee Bucks (22-18). This season, the Warriors are 8-0 after a loss, and in order to get to 9-0 they would have to win without Stephen Curry. Steph was sitting out with a sprained ankle, but wanted to play, and is sitting out for rest/precautionary reasons. Klay Thompson would make his return after resting against the Clippers. The Warriors went on to win the game 108-94.
In the first quarter, the Warriors started off hot. They shot a combined 66.7% in the quarter, which I think is their highest total in a quarter without Stephen Curry. Kevin Durant was especially hot, leading the Warriors with 13 points on 6-8 shooting. After putting up 40 against the Clippers, Durant was clearly looking to continue to score the ball at an incredibly efficient rate. He was the only Warrior in double-digits with scoring, and the next closest player was Nick Young, who had five points, three of which came on a buzzer-beating three from just inside halfcourt. Several players started the game off really well, and outside of Durant, the most notable start came from Kevon Looney. He scored four points, and was playing very solid ball on both ends, all while playing in his hometown. He was the first big off the bench for the Warriors and took full advantage. The Bucks did not start off as hot, only shooting 40.9%. Eric Bledsoe led them in scoring with seven points, including a nice dunk to open the game. After the first, the Warriors led the Bucks 34-27.
The second quarter saw the Warriors continue to shoot the ball extremely well. Their field goal percentage did dip, but they were still at 63.6%, which is absolutely absurd. Kevin Durant continued to lead all scorers, he finished the half with 17 points, so he did slow down, but he did make Giannis Antetokounmpo look foolish on a nice dunk. There was a three-way tie for the next highest scoring Warrior between Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and Nick Young. Draymond Green had a nice half and did all his scoring from inside the paint, including a dunk in the closing seconds of the half. Klay Thompson’s eight points came with an incredible degree of difficulty as he hit several turnaround mid-range jumpers that would be impossible for a normal player to make. Nick Young got his eight points on two threes and a nice up-and-under layup. The Bucks’ shooting faltered, and by halftime their percentage had fallen below 40%, and was sitting at 39.1%. Giannis was their leading scorer with 15 points, which came on several impressive drives to the hoop. Eric Bledsoe was close behind Giannis with 12 points of his own, but they were a pretty quiet 12 points, outside of his dunk to open the game. The difference between the two teams in the first half was the play of the benches. The Warriors’ bench was astounding, scoring 22 points on 10-13 shooting. A big part of the bench’s strong play was Kevon Looney, who despite having just six points, looked incredible on both ends of the court. He played strong defense while also having a really nice presence around the hoop. He picked up a Kevin Durant airball and made it look like an alley-oop by making a nice layup. At the half, the Warriors still led the Bucks, 63-49.
In the third quarter, the game completely unraveled for the Warriors as they squandered a 14-point lead to the Bucks. The Bucks shot the ball a lot better, raising their percentage to 47.7%, and their 3pt% was at 50%, after they hit what seemed like 25 threes in the third quarter. On the flipside, the Warriors could not buy a bucket in the third, as their percentage dropped to 55.6%, and their 3pt% sat at 25%. They just could not get anything going on offense. Zaza Pachulia was the only Warrior making shots, and he finished the quarter with eight points. Giannis was still leading the Bucks in scoring with 19 points, and Eric Bledsoe was next up with 17. Four different Bucks had more than 10 points, whereas only two Warriors had more than 10. The third quarter was pretty depressing, and the Bucks led the Warriors 82-80.
The Warriors stepped up in the fourth quarter to come back and put the game away. Draymond Green and Kevin Durant both were great in the fourth quarter and hit key shots to extend their lead. Kevin Durant finished with 26 points, and Draymond Green nearly had a triple double, finishing with 21 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists. Draymond Green also had two straight games without a turnover for the first time since the 2014-15 season. The Warriors finished the game shooting 55.0% overall and 33% from three, while the Bucks finished shooting 42.4% overall adn 39.3% from three. The Bucks’ leading scorer was Giannis Antetokounmpo with 23 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. The Bucks really struggled down the stretch as Golden State started playing actual defense, holding them to just 12 points in the quarter. The Warriors held on to win the game 108-94.
The Warriors offense was incredible in the first half, but in the second half, they really faltered and that was because of the absence of Stephen Curry. It became very clear that at halftime, that the Bucks decided that to stop the Warriors, they needed to try and stop Kevin Durant, which they were able to do in the third, which completely took the Warriors out of their rhythm offensively. Once Durant was able to get going again in the fourth though, it was game over for the Bucks.
This was my first real look at Giannis Antetokounmpo this season, and to be honest, I wasn’t all that impressed. He didn’t have one of his crazy games, finishing with just 23 points, but he also didn’t make a single jumpshot. Now, that’s fine for him because of how tall and lanky he is, but I just don’t know how viable the Bucks can be as a playoff team or NBA title contender if their best player can’t make a jump shot. He’s 23 years old so obviously there is room to grow, and he has an incredible amount of potential, but based off of their performance today, I don’t see them as a real contender in the East this season.
This game was pretty boring, as most games are without Stephen Curry, but for other reasons too. The Warriors didn’t play several other guys at all, which I thought was a little strange. Jordan Bell, Quinn Cook, and JaVale McGee all did not see any time on the floor, which I guess could make sense because they are going to need depth tomorrow against Toronto in the second half of this back-to-back, but I thought that several of the rotations Steve Kerr put out there, especially in the third quarter, were ineffective. I particularly thought it was strange how Jordan Bell didn’t get in, as he is one of their best defenders and most explosive, above-the rim players, but I’m not going to put too much thought into the reasons behind him not playing.
Kevon Looney had a really good game in front of his family in friends, and I thought that it was pretty cool. He’s been surprisingly good all season and it was nice to see him get big minutes in a game that clearly mattered a lot to him.
The Warriors play next on Saturday, January 13, in Toronto against the Raptors at 4:30 p.m.