UPDATE: Klay Thompson is expected to start despite his sore ankle.
The Golden State Warriors enter Saturday night's matchup in Milwaukee likely without all-star Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes. They also figure to be rather tired, having won a double-overtime thriller in Boston last night. So if ever the defending champs might be ripe for an upset, this in theory would be it.
Of course, the defending champs still have MVP Stephen Curry, they still have Draymond Green, and they still haven't been beaten during their NBA-record 24-0 start. It's not surprising then that they're favored to win by 9 tonight in Milwaukee. Maybe things break right and the Bucks give them a real run tonight...or maybe the Warriors flip a switch and win by 30. Whatever happens, it should be a good measuring stick for a Bucks team plodding along at 9-15 and about to head West for a four-game road trip.
While they've performed much better defensively since shaking up their starting lineup eight games ago (5th in DRTG over past 8 games...more on that below), Milwaukee's offense has been a wreck for most of that period. The Bucks are 29th in the NBA in points per possession in that span, ranking last in the NBA in three pointers made (just 4.1 per game) and three point percentage (28.4%) -- especially bad when you consider they were top ten in accuracy in the first month of the season. Some of that drop-off can be attributed to the ongoing absence of backcourt playmakers Jerryd Bayless and Greivis Vasquez, though the bad news is that neither is expected back tonight either.
Even with Michael Carter-Williams condemned to the bench, teams have looked increasingly bold in sagging off Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker on the perimeter and neither has been able to find much of any consistency shooting the ball when they do. Jabari has attempted just two threes all season and struggled mightily on long twos as well, connecting on just 22.6% on two-point shots outside 16 feet. Meanwhile, Giannis has been somewhat more respectable on long twos (36%) but has seen his percentage from deep sink down to 28.4%. Antetokounmpo's been really good from the corners (6/11, 54%) but has struggled mightily on above the break threes, where he's connected on just 3/22 (14%).
Before the game tonight Kidd talked about trying to stagger Giannis' minutes to give him more time with the second unit, so don't be surprised if he once again gets an early hook and then re-enters later in the first quarter. Here's our Eric Nehm asking Kidd about it:
Asked Kidd about bringing Giannis out during the first quarter. Interesting response: pic.twitter.com/YcAyfMugbC— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) December 13, 2015
Warriors Scouting Report
The Warriors can go big. The Warriors can go small. They can do everything in between, too.
In short, there's no easy scouting report on how to defend the league's scariest offense, not with Stephen Curry leading the league in seemingly every shooting and scoring stat and a multitude of weapons surrounding him. While the reigning MVP draws the headlines, Draymond Green is often the guy who straws the Warriors' drink, upping his overall game with 14.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and an eye-popping 7.4 assists while playing mostly power forward and center. Even if teams throw doubles at Curry in P&R, Green is as capable as any roll man in the league at creating off the bounce in 4-on-3 situations. That's no surprise looking at the stats, as Green has leapfrogged Curry (6.1 apg, down from 7.7 last year) as the Warriors' top assist guy.
Eric Nehm and I discussed the Bucks' improved defense and whether they might be uniquely qualified to match up with the Warriors' small lineup earlier this week:
Curry and Green have been even more important with Brandon Rush and the little-known Ian Clark starting in place of the injured Thompson and Barnes the past couple games, though acting head coach Luke Walton still has the luxury of bringing Finals MVP Andre Iguodala off the bench. Moreover, the Warriors' lesser lights can still bury you if you leave them wide open -- both Clark and Rush are hitting 44% or better from three point range this season.
The Warriors also remain one of the league's best defensive teams, though they've slipped from their top spot last year to 8th in defensive efficiency thus far. Their points-per-possession stats have only dipped marginally, but they're also not perfect. They don't force many turnovers (23rd) and their small lineups occasionally leave them exposed to second chances (19th in DREB%).
|2014/2015 NBA Season|
|March 28, 2015|
|BMO Harris Bradley Center | Milwaukee, WI|
|FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ|
|Stephen Curry||PG||O.J. Mayo|
|Klay Thompson||SG||Khris Middleton|
|Brandon Rush||SF||Giannis Antetokounmpo|
|Draymond Green||PF||Jabari Parker|
|Andrew Bogut||C||Greg Monroe|
|2014/15 Advanced Stats|
|99.2 (3rd)||Pace||93.0 (29th)|
|115.6 (1st)||ORtg||101.3 (25th)|
|101.5 (8th)||DRtg||108.2 (27th)|