The Milwaukee Bucks finally returned to the franchise’s most comfortable winning percentage, .500, last night with a knock out, drag out battle against the Los Angeles Lakers 107-103. They’ll face the Golden State Warriors, fresh off two straight wins including a performance turning the the Orlando Magic to Muggles on Thursday, 122-92.
Milwaukee’s victory last night put them at .500 for the first time since January 16th. They’re now the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference race, a half game ahead of the Heat in eighth and one game back of the Pacers in sixth. The win last night came from the combined efforts of Milwaukee’s two stars.
Giannis Antetokounmpo reached 26 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two blocks, with Khris “Mid-Range” Middleton shooting his way to 30 points on the night, getting to the free throw line nine times. Despite these strong performances and building up comfortable leads repeatedly, the Bucks still managed to let the Los Angeles Lakers linger to the very last minute. Malcolm Brogdon and Khris Middleton knocked home clutch free throws in the waning seconds to lock it up for the Bucks.
A scuffle in the middle of the contest resulted in Nick Young, D’Angelo Russell and Greg Monroe all getting tossed from the game. Los Angeles losing two of their most dynamic players is an obvious issue, but Milwaukee had to cobble together a closing frontcourt with their usual closing center out of the lineup.
Milwaukee acquitted itself well against the Warriors earlier this year, falling 124-121 against a team that still had Kevin Durant playing for it. That’s been a typical trend for this Bucks’ team over the past two years, as they’ve found ways to either nearly beat or actually topple the league’s juggernaut. Let’s hope they can stay competitive tonight.
As per usual, it’s only Beasley out for the Bucks tonight.
The news that Golden State would lose Kevin Durant for a notable period came as a shock to a team rolling over most of the league, but the team still retained most of the talent that made them a 73-win Goliath last year. Assuredly they could still be dominant. That hasn’t been the case so far though.
As they’re adapting to their offense without Kevin Durant, the Warriors have gone 4-4 over that stretch. The wins they have notched came over the Knicks, Hawks, Sixers and Magic. Not great shakes by any means, and that recent dip in performance has this Warriors team looking more vulnerable than they have at any time in the past two years. Still, for a Bucks team that’s struggled all year on the road, and barely beat the Lakers last night, there’s no reason they should take this game lightly in any fashion.
By now everyone knows the Warriors shtick. They’re number one in offensive efficiency (112.7) and number two in defensive efficiency (101.3). They run shooters repeatedly around screens and rapid off-ball movement in an attempt to get open for shots from the outside. They’re fifth in the league in 3-point attempts per game, 31.2, and they knock them down at the third best rate in the league, 38.0%. Their league-best assist percentage is 70.5%, so Milwaukee communicating switches and contesting shooters will be central to their pursuit of a record over .500 tonight. A win may be unlikely, but as our old friend once said, NOTHING EASY!
Kevin Durant is obviously out, and Damian Jones and Milwaukee native Kevon Looney are with the D-League.