There's no place like home, there's no place like home, there's no place...
Despite a valiant effort, the Milwaukee Bucks couldn't quite hang with the Golden State Warriors Wednesday night, falling on the road 102-93. A western road trip that managed to dodge most of the conference's elite teams looked like a good chance to get the Milwaukee Bucks' new additions acclimated and get back some of the momentum from before the All-Star break. Instead, after a string of brutal losses and a matchup with the NBA's best team, the Bucks will stagger back to the BMO Harris Bradley Center with their longest losing streak of the season and a long to-do list when it comes to fixing an offense that suddenly seems lost.
If there's been a silver lining in this unfortunate stretch, it's been a couple of nice performances by Giannis Antetokounmpo. After a 2/8 start from the field, Giannis finished with 16 points and 8 rebounds on Wednesday on 6/13 shooting (4/4 from the line). He was 4/7 on jumpers outside the paint, shots he's shown a greater willingness to hoist up lately. Golden State's stifling defense gave him more trouble in the paint than he's used to, frequently baiting him into contested, off-balance runners when driving lanes evaporated before his eyes. But Giannis made a few more impact plays on defense (2 steals and a block) and continued to gobble up defensive rebounds (he's now the team leader in DRB%).
Michael Carter-Williams and Khris Middleton added 16 and 14 points, respectively, with MCW adding 7 assists and 2 steals. But he and Giannis each had 5 turnovers, while the team as a whole coughed up 24 possessions. Those turnovers issues made a big difference in the game and especially in the fourth quarter: trailing by 10 points with about 10 minutes remaining, the Bucks committed back-to-back turnovers. Then with four and a half minutes left and the same margin, another turnover. Then with two minutes left and the same margin, another turnover. That ain't gonna fly.
Stephen Curry, on the other hand, was cleared for takeoff in the fourth quarter. After a relatively quiet first three quarters, Curry singlehandedly turned a three-point lead for Golden State into a ten-point advantage early in the fourth, when he sank back-to-back-to-back threes in the span of 66 seconds. After Giannis' turnover with two minutes left, he drained the dagger, not even bothering to watch it sail through the net. Curry finished with 19 points and 11 assists.
Milwaukee got double-doubles from both Zaza Pachulia (13 points, 11 rebounds) and Ersan Ilyasova (13/10), with Ersan chipping in 3 of 5 shooting from behind the arc. Ersan's shot doesn't look broken by any means, but he's still somewhat hesitant to let it go -- one key sequence late in the game saw the Bucks swing the ball around the perimeter to get Ersan an open three at the top of the arc, but instead Ersan made another pass to MCW on the left wing. Carter-Williams proceeded to airball a long jumper.
The star of the night for the Warriors was Draymond Green, who celebrated his 25th birthday with a brilliant stat line of 23 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, and 3 blocks. He burned the Bucks with threes from all over the court and was a general menace on defense. Klay Thompson had 17 points, while Shaun Livingston contributed a tidy 16 points and 6 rebounds in 27 minutes off the bench, including a trio of fourth quarter dunks after the Bucks opted to go small.
The top priority for Milwaukee as they return home is finding some fresh ideas for an offense that looks rudderless at the moment. There's little creativity to speak of, half the roster is stuck in shooting slumps, and defenses always seem to know where the ball is going before it even starts to move. On the bright side, guys like Giannis and Middleton continue to see their roles increase, and the team hasn't been afraid to let them make mistakes. But such was largely the case back when the Bucks were winning, and that sure was a lot more fun.