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Milwaukee vs. Golden State: Bucks Benefit From Banged-Up Warriors

The Bucks did what they always do, and defeat an opponent nobody thinks they can.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

#NeverTrustTheBucks is a mantra because of how often it reinforces itself. Going up against a weaker opponent? Bucks are probably gonna lose. Taking on the defending champion Golden State Warriors in their own house, on an extended road trip on the coast of the Pacific Ocean? Might as well write down “WIN” in permanent marker, as the Bucks did just that agains the Warriors last night.

The TNT feed jumped over from the overtime game between San Antonio and Oklahoma City right before the Bucks went up 7-0 on a Middleton jumper. Needless to say, it was a pleasant way to start the contest, and Milwaukee should consider starting with a seven point lead more often. However, that lead quickly evaporated after back-to-back-to-back-to-back threes (no, really) from Golden State, forcing Joe Prunty to take a timeout down 14-12.

The timeout seemed to settle the Bucks down, as they were able to get their defense back under control (while still watching Kevin Durant score difficult buckets because he’s ridiculous), and they ended up taking a 29-27 lead into the second quarter, shortly after Jabari Parker double-dunked an alley-oop.

(The ball bounced off the floor, onto the rim, and rolled back through the basket, but they didn’t count the points. Clearly another piece of evidence of the NBA’s anti-small market bias.)

The game took a turn for the scary for Milwaukee, as Khris Middleton suffered an awkward fall and immediately exited the court. Thankfully, his absence was short-lived, and the Bucks held court on the court as well.

Once the Bucks got sloppy in the second, the Warriors (and their fans) came alive. Joe Prunty wisely took a timeout at the 5:09 mark of the period, as Milwaukee had committed 5 turnovers in the quarter come back to nearly match Golden State’s mark (10-8). The timeout was well-timed, as Milwaukee closed the first half on a 14-2 run, opening the third quarter with a 58-49 lead.

Khris Middleton shook off whatever had rattled him in the second quarter, opening the third with a three. Eric Bledsoe joined the baking party, taking turnovers from the Warriors and scoring a handful of buckets, and opened up a 20-point lead for the Bucks (81-61) with a three pointer.

Bucks fans had another collective heart attack when Giannis seemed to tweak his ankle, but because he seems to be made of whatever mythical substance makes him superhuman (perhaps Unicornium?), he stayed in the game and shook it off.

Milwaukee’s lead quickly shrank after 7-0 Golden State run, as the Bucks exhibited some of the sloppy play that had plagued the Warriors all night long. A Bledsoe layup, a pretty Giannis fadeaway jumper, a corner three from Jason Terry, a NASTY Jabari Parker dunk, and a Middleton buzzer-beating layup helped buoy the Bucks, as they re-extended their lead to 92-72 going into the final twelve minutes.

Perhaps feeling left out, Jabari Parker started off the fourth quarter with a pair of three pointers, helping to push the lead even further for the Bucks. The short-handed Warriors simply didn't have the firepower to hang on Thursday night, as Steve Kerr called timeout with his team down 104-83 with 6:34 remaining in the fourth. Quinn Cook set a career high with 30 points, and largely assumed responsibly for keeping the game within reach. However, a Khris Middleton three sealed it in the final minute, and the buzzer sounded with Milwaukee still hanging on to a nine point lead.

Bonus Bucks Bits

  • JaVale McGee (who is sporting a hideous curly rat-tail) borrowed the starting spot from Zaza Pachulia for Golden State last night, which immediately made me breathe a sigh of relief for John Henson’s ribs.
  • Quinn Cook hit back-to-back threes in the first quarter, followed by a wide-open corner three from Patrick McCaw. Draymond Green was involved in finding the shooter in all three plays, demonstrating how important he is to the Golden State machine.
  • Giannis aggressively pursued his shots in the first quarter (11 in the opening period), and I’m still trying to figure out how Giannis converted this shot:
  • Durant was ejected in the second quarter, and had apparently been engaging with referee Tre Maddox for the entire first half. He must have said the wrong thing and pointed the wrong way, as he ended the game with only 10 points and a -15 on the night. Was it deserved?
  • THE PLAY! used to be the side-out wiper-action for Khris Middleton, but it seems to have become the give-and-go sidestep three for Giannis. Our good friend Eric Nehm calls it a SLOB 3, which I think needs to return to the Nickname Committee.
  • Andre Iguodala, another member of the Warriors’ vaunted Death Lineup, left the game in the first half with left knee soreness. It was at this point that the Bucks really had no excuse losing the game, given how many major contributors Golden State was missing.
  • Milwaukee forced 18 turnovers on the evening, which is both an Achilles’ heel for Golden State (averaging 15.5 per game, 26th in the league) and crucial for the Bucks’ success (forcing 15.5 per game, 4th in the league, 17-12 when they force 16 or more turnovers).
  • Giannis had to check back in late in the fourth quarter, which is emblematic of the Bucks’ struggles to maintain consistency from game-to-game, or even quarter-to-quarter. A huge lead should mean that your superstar rests, but that didn’t (and usually doesn’t) happen for Milwaukee.
  • Tony Snell missed two point-blank dunks in the game: the first was a nasty block by JaVale McGee in the first, and the second was...just a miffed dunk late in the fourth quarter.