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Bucks vs. Warriors Final Score: Bucks’ comeback fall just short, 124-121

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Milwaukee battles back but misses several opportunities to tie or take the lead in final two minutes

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Milwaukee Bucks Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

After the Bucks’ dramatic win over the undefeated Warriors last season, it would’ve been tough to imagine a scenario conjuring one iota of that same drama. Impossibly, the Bucks did just that, staging a furious comeback late against Golden State but falling just short in an entertaining 124-121 loss. Milwaukee had multiple chances late to tie or take the lead, but a haphazard entry pass by Tony Snell with Milwaukee down 122-120 and 10 seconds left was deflected by Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson iced the game with two free throws moments later.

Giannis (30 points/four rebounds/six assists) and Jabari (28/5/6) did everything imaginable to keep the Bucks in the game, nailing jumpers and dipping to the rim at every opportunity. Milwaukee kept the game close for much of the night before the Warriors extended their lead to double-digits heading into the fourth, but the Bucks bullied their way back late by going small with Giannis, Teletovic, Jabari, Delly and Snell. With stellar defensive play down the stretch, Milwaukee just missed on several offensive opportunities, including a wonky Giannis dunk attempt that somehow rattled in and ultimately flew out of the basket.

Golden State’s stars mostly showed up, with Kevin Durant posting a hyper-efficient 33 points on 17 shots and Klay Thompson not far behind at 29 points on 17 shots. Steph Curry was notably quiet with just 20 points on 21 shots — include 1-11 shooting from three — while Draymond added 10 and Zaza bested Milwaukee on the boards with 10 rebounds (six offensive). For a game played in the shadow of the pregame bombshell that Rashad Vaughn was heading to the D-league, it exceeded expectations.

After their 25-point clunker of a second half in Miami on Thursday, the Bucks looked ready to go from the opening tip on Saturday. John Henson opened up the scoring for the Bucks with two quick hook shots over friend-turned-foe Zaza Pachulia. Golden State started with their usual bevy of screens, and the Bucks’ defense looked lost early on, leading to a series of easy baskets for the Warriors off quick cuts. Milwaukee kept the game even at 16-16, but after Milwaukee went with a Brogdon-Snell-Jabari-Beasley-Plumlee lineup halfway through the quarter, Golden State rattled off seven straight. From there Milwaukee, unexpectedly, took over.

That same ragtag crew got a series of transition buckets, including several Plumlee put-backs, grabbing the lead at 24-23. As the period ended, Jason Terry (free of his will they-won’t they relationship with Vaughn) started to take off, nailing two big threes as the Bucks went on an 11-0 run to end the quarter and snatching a surprising 37-28 lead. Giannis stopped at the bank and dropped this dime off too.

Andre Iguodala opened the second quarter with two threes, as the Bucks’ lead quickly evaporated to 37-36. The high scoring affair didn’t relent, as both teams jockeyed for position the rest of the half. Golden State dominated Milwaukee on the offensive glass, especially Zaza, who treated John Henson like a crash test dummy. Giannis and Jabari kept getting buckets though, driving to the rim and using a dizzying array of moves to best Golden State defenders. Greg Monroe entered the game with around two minutes left in the half, something Jason Kidd said wouldn’t be the case pregame when he mentioned only playing two centers tonight. Henson and Plumlee’s three fouls probably forced his hand, though later on we’d be left wondering if the Bucks’ best lineup on the night even needed a traditional big man to begin with.

Kevin Durant ripped jumpers relentlessly, ending the half with 25 points on 5/6 from deep, with Curry the only other Warrior in double digits (11). Despite Giannis (16 points/six assists) and Jabari’s (14 points) productive halves and a scalding 60% shooting performance by the Bucks, Golden State entered halftime with a 69-66 lead.

The game’s offensive tenor didn’t change in the second half. Klay Thompson shook off his tepid start, nailing two rapid threes on his way to an eventual 18 point quarter. John Henson exited the game early after picking up a personal foul on a blatant, and predictable, Draymond Green flop. Henson’s post-foul potty mouth earned him a tech, and Plumlee played until the final minute and a half when the Bucks went small with Giannis at center to battle the Warriors’ vaunted smallball crew. Golden State had dominated the Bucks through spread pick and rolls, with Javale McGee earning several easy dunks and Green disseminating the ball with ease. Still, Milwaukee kept the game close, getting within six at 96-90 on a Brogdon three with 2:00 left, but Golden State opened up a 103-92 lead by the end of the third.

Mirza Teletovic saw his first action of the night to start the fourth as the Bucks stuck with Giannis at center alongside Beasley, Terry and Dellavedova. Right as Golden State looked like they may be putting the game out of reach, JET nailed a three to make it 109-98, and Giannis hit two free throws on the ensuing possession to pull the Bucks within nine. After a few “of course you would” jumpers from Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, Milwaukee answered back with a Mirza three, Giannis dunk and Giannis three (!) to make it 118-110. Jabari laid one in, Giannis hit two free throws and Snell smacked in a three to make it 120-117. After a slick finish by Curry in the paint, Jabari Parker answered with a fiery and-one, bringing it to 122-120 with 2:32 left. This is a very rational summation of what followed:

Here’s a more scattered summation: A dubious out of bounds call went the Warriors way, followed by an attempted Giannis breakaway dunk denied by what could only be supernatural forces. Another out of bounds call occurred, whereby both broadcast crews informed me it should be their ball. The Warriors’ crew won, but the Bucks got the stop and Mirza Teletovic subsequently missed a three pointer that was more wide open than an airport runway. Iggy had a clear path to the basket off a Curry pass and Giannis cut him off before whipping around to block Draymond at the basket:

A tough Giannis runner rattled off the rim, and Durant missed a jumper over Mirza’s outstretched Bosnian bear paw before Jason Kidd called a timeout to set up one last chance to tie or take the lead. Snell tried an entry pass to Giannis — setting up what looked like the Bucks’ usual “wiper” action for a wing three — but Draymond deflected it to Thompson, who iced the game with two free throws. Woah.

- Adam Paris

Podcast:

Shortly after the game our Frank Madden podcasted about it with Danny Leroux of Locked on Warriors:

Download MP3 Audio

Tidbits/Thoughts:

  • Draymond Green is evidence that fast hands and knowing how to use them is an underrated skill. In the first quarter, he tied up Giannis on two early drives (that were primarily defended by Zaza), preventing what would have been two easy looks, and capped the game by forcing a turnover on the Bucks’ ill-fated inbound play in the fourth.
  • Credit to the Bucks for staying engaged when things started going badly in the first quarter. There were a few moments where the team could've gone into a tailspin (KD's corner three, Curry's and-1 floater after a substitution)...but they didn't. An excellent sign from a still-young team, and it allowed them to maintain their momentum in the 2nd quarter.
  • Pat McCaw missed a three at the end of the first, which clearly shows how savvy and wise the Bucks were to sell off that second-rounder. (major sarcasm)
  • Teletovic didn’t play great -- he hit just 1/5 from deep — and he brings challenges defensively, but it’s difficult to rationalize how Kidd can go three quarters without using his best shooter and basically the entire game without using his most productive big man in Monroe.
  • Miles Plumlee did a SPECTACULAR job maintaining verticality and altering layups on two possessions at the end of the first, obviously a sign that his contract was a smart decision and a massive underpay for his defensive value. (minor sarcasm)
  • We don't appreciate how friggin' smooth Kevin Durant is when he scores the basketball. He's absurd. 25 in the first half while barely breaking a sweat.
  • If you find out why John Henson needed to leave his feet on a ZAZA PACHULIA PUMP FAKE, let me know.
  • Does anybody remember that terrible Martin Lawrence movie, where he was a big-time coach who got demoted to coaching middle-schoolers, and to motivate his players to keep their hands up on D he put Icy-Hot under their arms? I'm not saying Jason Kidd should do that, but I am saying that he could do that.
  • I know that Giannis’ spin move has become somewhat predictable, but HOW DOES GIANNIS SPIN WHILE MOVING SO FAST WITHOUT TRAVELING?! It vexes me.
  • It took Greg Monroe 22 game minutes and light Plumlee foul trouble to check into the game, despite playing a team that likes to go small, will guard him with guys 50 lbs. lighter, and oh yeah, Moose is still a low-post scoring specialist? Zach Lowe was right: something is fishy!
  • Steph Curry airballed a 3 in the third quarter, and the crowd loved it. Almost immediately afterwards, Jabari and Durant knocked knees, and Durant hit the deck. The crowd did not love that.
  • Delly's third quarter PUJIT at the elbow reminded me of a young Mitchell Maurer. Ah, those were the days...
  • There was much contact initiated by Golden State's bigs all game, but the impact of all that contact was magnified in the fourth quarter, when the Warriors benefited from a short (but impactful) string of favorable calls. West, Zaza, Green, and McGee were all able to get under the Bucks' skin just often enough to keep them off-balance.
  • I felt bad about this loss until I remembered that the Warriors' fourth-best player is Klay Thompson, whereas the Bucks' fourth-best player is...Greg Monroe, I think? Seriously, it's fine. That said, the Bucks' comeback attempt in the fourth was FUN. Threes were launched, rims were attacked, boards were snatched, and the team showed as much urgency as a middle-schooler trying to attract the aim of a t-shirt cannon. Maybe more! Had the team applied that urgency to even half of the minutes played before the 6:00 mark in the fourth, who knows what could’ve been different?

- Mitchell Maurer