The Bucks four game road trip makes it’s second stop in Oakland, as Milwaukee meet the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors on their home floor. It was a frustrating loss that kicked off the trip, as the Bucks fell 98-105 to the Los Angeles Clippers. A typically slow start hampered the Bucks, as they fell behind as many as 16 points in the second quarter, before gradually working into the contest on the back of a another MVP performance from Giannis Antetokounmpo.
In his second game back from sitting out with a foot/ankle injury, Antetokounmpo helped keep the Bucks afloat in the first half with four highlight reel blocks, and ended the night with 27 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and five blocks. In what has become a regular occurrence for Milwaukee, they once again had to battle back from a double digit deficit, to hold a five point lead with 8:17 remaining in the fourth quarter. They couldn’t finish off however, as the offense stagnated, and the Clippers offense caught fire from deep. Los Angeles eventually completing a 15-for-28 night from three, the Bucks unable to prevent good looks from the outside, as miscommunication on defense once more became apparent.
With only one night to recover, they now face one of the toughest challenges in basketball. Facing the champs on their home court. Golden State have faced the most challenging campaign of their reign of dominance, as injuries have began to take their toll on Steve Kerr’s squad. 3-6 over their last nine, their latest loss coming to the Indiana Pacers. Steph Curry (knee), Klay Thompson (thumb), Draymond Green (illness), and Kevin Durant (ribs), all missed the contest, as the Warriors were held to 82 points on their home floor.
Both Green and Durant are listed as probable for Thursday night contest, while Thompson has been ruled out, along with Curry who won’t return until at least the second round of the playoffs. For the Bucks, Thon Maker remains questionable, after a minor groin strain was revealed at shoot around before the Clippers game in LA. Both Matthew Dellavedova and Malcolm Brogdon remain out for the Bucks.
Golden State have won four straight against the Bucks at Oracle Arena, with the last Milwaukee win coming on March 9th, 2013. With Tuesday nights loss, the Bucks dropped back down to the 8th seed in the East, and find themselves still within reaching distance of the Detroit Pistons in 9th. Coach Joe Prunty was determined post-game to stress the fact they have not yet secured a place in the playoffs, adamant they must take each game on it’s merit as the end of the regular season approaches. Coming off a disappointing loss, there would be no better way to prove their mettle then to defeat the Warriors on their home floor.
Kane’s Keys To Victory:
- Three-point defense: No Curry, no Thompson, no worries for the Warriors, who boast a plethora of alternate threats from the outside in their absence. Durant, Nick Young, Quinn Cook, Andre Iguodala, and Pat McCaw will have no issue with firing away from deep if given the opportunity. The Clippers were able to break down the Bucks offense time and time again on Tuesday night, Milos Teodosic knocking down a equal career high four three pointers in the first quarter. It allowd Los Angeles to bust the game wide open early, and make no mistake, the Warriors will do the same if the same lax defense allows them to.
- Persistant Parker: Still not quite back to his absolute best, Jabari Parker suffered through one of his worst performances of his return so far at Staples Center. In 19 minutes of play, Parker finished with two points, on 1-12 shooting. Nothing fell for Jabari, as even wide open looks were struggling to graze the rim. It was a surprising performance for a guy who has been amazingly impressive since returning from his second knee reconstruction in early February. Perhaps unfairly, Parker’s importance to this team is undeniable, they need him to fire off the bench, especially so against the high powered Warriors offense.
- Lock down Durant: As mentioned earlier, Kevin Durant is slated to return tonight. This certainly comes as a blow to the Bucks who are desperate to secure an important road victory. But, with their recent spate of injuries, the Warriors usual powerhouse offense has struggled, scoring under 100 points in three of their last four contest. With Thompson and Curry still missing, the Bucks have an opportunity to take advantage of a severely undermanned Golden State team. If they can lock down on Durant, they’ll force the Warriors to beat them with their supplementary options that have struggled to carry the load. It;s certainly easier said then done, but if they force Durant into taking difficult shots, they’ll give themselves a chance at a rare Oracle victory.
Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus