Friday night signifies the halfway point of the regular season for Milwaukee as they host the reigning NBA Champions in their first meeting of the 2017/18 season. The Bucks will be hoping to snap a seven game streak of alternating wins and losses after comfortably pulling away from Orlando in the second half on Wednesday. Golden State on the other hand continue to cruise through the regular season, often short handed, as they’ve now won 18 of their last 20 contests.
The visitors have won three of the last four against Milwaukee, though two of their victories have been highly entertaining single digit triumphs. The Bucks will be hoping to continue the trend of raising their level of play to match the opposition, in what is certain to be a packed house at the Bradley Center.
Exactly which Golden State stars will take the floor is still up in the air as of Friday morning with Steph Curry questionable with an ankle, while Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala are both listed as probable with knee complaints. Klay Thompson was rested for Golden State’s most recent game, a loss to the Clippers Wednesday night, whilst Kevin Durant and Draymond Green have been said to be carrying various ailments through the season so far.
Golden State’s offense may somehow be more lethal then ever this season with Thompson, Curry and Durant all shooting over 40 percent from deep, combining to attempt 23.7 three pointers per game. This is an amazing stat before you even consider they also have Nick Young, Omri Casspi and Green getting up their fare share of shots from beyond the arc. For a bit of perspective, the Bucks only attempt 24.4 three pointers across their whole roster per game.
The match-up has the potential to be a high scoring affair as the Warriors number one ranked offense meets the Bucks rising seventh ranked offense. For Milwaukee to hang around though, their frustratingly 23rd ranked defense will need a vastly improved effort (and some luck).
After giving up 29 extremely easy points to Orlando in the first quarter Wednesday night, Milwaukee were able to clamp down and hold the Magic to only 40 points through the next two quarters. A key factor in slowing down the Magic was keeping them to 27.6 percent shooting from deep. This was particularly important as they again leaked points in the paint, giving up 62 as the Magic were far to often afforded the pleasure of a clear lane to the basket. The sometimes hot, but mostly cold Bucks defense will need a marquee performance to stand any chance against the star studded Western Conference leaders.
Giannis v Durant. Bledsoe v Curry. Thompson v Middleton. The match ups are mouth watering, the anticipation is enormous, time will tell if the Bucks are ready to step up and test the champs one more time.
Kane’s Keys To Victory:
- Three Is Greater Then Two: All Bucks fans are well aware that Jason Kidd hasn’t quite figured out yet that 3 points are more valuable then 2. Coming up against the Warriors, they will need to be prepared to let fly from deep and knock down open looks. After knocking down a miserable 21 percent of their tries against Orlando, the Bucks need to get hot, quickly. In a three point loss against the Warriors last season at home they knocked down 50 percent. The year before they made 43 percent in the streak busting win at home. Then in a loss at Oracle they struggled in only hitting 22 percent of their attempts beyond the arc. Quite simply they need to make their jump shots or they’ll be in for a long night. Khris Middleton, Tony Snell, Malcolm Brogdon. I’m looking at you.
- Cold Curry: Since returning from injury, Steph has been absolutely white hot. Missing 11 games in December with an ankle issue, Curry has come back in scintillating touch to again push himself into MVP contention. Launching 62 three point attempts in five games, Curry has connected on 53 percent of them and in total has averaged 35.2 points per game. Somehow forcing him to take even more difficult shots then usual will be critical. In 2015/16 the Bucks held Curry to 26 percent shooting from deep, last season it was 36 percent. Similar numbers tomorrow would be considered a huge win for the Bucks defense. Good luck Eric Bledsoe and friends.
- Sharing Is Caring: One thing the Bucks simply can not afford to do is slow down the pace on offense and settle for isolation possessions. Thompson, Green and Durant are elite defenders at their position and allowing them to get comfortable in one on one situations is playing straight into their hands. Milwaukee sits middle of the pack for assists per game with 22.8 but getting that figure up to 30+ will hold them in good stead. Keep the Warrior defense on the move, zip the ball around and they will be able to find an open look.
It’s going to require a near perfect effort to pull off an upset victory at home, but in all seriousness, would it really surprise any Bucks fans if they did? It’s been that kind of year.
Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus