Here's the good news: the last time the Milwaukee Bucks faced the Golden State Warriors, they put an end to the best season-opening winning streak in NBA history and gave Bucks fans the biggest excuse to forget their troubles and party down they've had all season.
The bad news? Since that wild wonderful night, things have taken a noticeable turn for the worse. Following an embarrassing defeat at the hands of the bottom-dwelling L.A. Lakers, Milwaukee tried to shake things up against the Clippers and saw no change in result. Now they continue their West Coast road trip with a visit to Oakland, where it may not be cold, but revenge is most definitely on the menu.
Since ending Golden State's 24-game winning streak, Milwaukee has fallen on hard times. Well, times similar to those that preceded that victory, really.
The bottom has fallen out of Milwaukee's defense in the last two games, with defensive ratings of 123 and 119, respectively. The Bucks allowed Kobe Bryant to find his youth one more time, while the Clippers buried them under a barrage of three-pointers and free-throws. Surprisingly, despite the absence of Greg Monroe (who is not expected to play tonight), the offense has held fairly steady: Milwaukee's 103.9 offensive rating over the last two games is a few ticks above their season average.
What does it all mean? The Bucks have a ton of questions left to answer, including a few that we really hoped they wouldn't still be asking at this juncture. From Giannis Antetokounmpo's place in the starting lineup to Michael Carter-Williams' role in the rotation whatsoever, critical issues are far from settled.
When the failings come primarily on the defensive end, it's hard to pin down a definitive cause, but it's apparent that this is not a team capable of rolling with the punches when it comes to personnel changes. Greg Monroe has his defensive failings, but there's at least a certain degree of familiarity that comes with having him under the basket. And though the offensive efficiency hasn't quite borne it out, the Bucks clearly miss him on those possessions where they need to create a good look at the basket and have one fewer mismatch to exploit (this is still a team that thrives primarily on exploiting one-on-one matchups).
In order for Milwaukee to shock the world and hand Golden State their second loss of the season, they're going to need something close to greatness from key players like Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, and Khris Middleton. And they'll have to do it getting nothing less the best from their opponents this time. Season expectations may be in the middle of some furious editing, but there's always time to make a statement.
Warriors Scouting Report
How much do you really need? Tonight Milwaukee will see largely the same Golden State squad they saw last Saturday. The main difference is that this version of the Dubs isn't coming off a double-overtime marathon showdown on the road. Instead, Golden State is sure to be well-rested and ready to roll after an easy 25-point victory over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday, a game in which no starter played over 31 minutes.
That means get ready to see the Warriors' lethal brand of basketball at its best, especially if they get an encore performance from Klay Thompson, who sank 8 triples en route to a season-best 43 points in the win over Phoenix.
We shouldn't sugar-coat it: this is not the sort of game anybody can reasonably expect the Bucks to win. But then, the exact same could have been said about the last time these teams faced off, mitigating circumstances notwithstanding. The Bucks have versatile, talented players to match the Warriors, but only one of those crews executes on that talent consistently.
Daily Fantasy Tip
It probably doesn't matter how expensive Stephen Curry is for tonight. Curry has topped 60 fantasy points on 8 separate occasions this year, and against a dilapidated Bucks squad with revenge on his mind, the stage is set. Heck, Curry, Thompson, and Draymond Green are all stellar plays with Milwaukee back in a deep defensive rut.
Jabari Parker represents an interesting value play tonight. He had a solid game against Golden State last weekend, tallying 19 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 steals. With Greg Monroe out again, he should see more shot attempts as well (that's more of a suggestion than a prediction). Parker will likely start the game matched up against Draymond Green, which doesn't exactly bode well, but Parker's skilled enough to find shots even against somebody like Green, and Milwaukee will need him to shoulder a substantial load.
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(Editor's Note: all the opinions expressed here are my own. FanDuel gave me some cash to play daily fantasy games)
On the Warriors: Golden State of Mind | Warriors World
|2015/16 NBA Season|
|December 18, 2015|
|ORACLE Arena | Oakland, CA|
|Fox Sports Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ|
|Michael Carter-Williams||PG||Stephen Curry|
|O.J. Mayo||SG||Klay Thompson|
|Khris Middleton||SF||Brandon Rush|
|Jabari Parker||PF||Draymond Green|
|Miles Plumlee||C||Andrew Bogut|
|2014/15 Advanced Stats|
|93.1 (29th)||Pace||99.7 (1st)|
|101.5 (26th)||ORtg||11408 (1st)|
|108.4 (28th)||DRtg||101.3 (7th)|