The Bucks secured an important road win last night, a rare one at Oracle Arena, taking down the depleted Warriors 116-107. Giannis Antetokounmpo was at his aggressive best, determined to get the Bucks of to a fast start. He finished the night with 32 points on 14-for-18 shooting, including knocking down two of his three attempts from deep.
The Warriors were already without Steph Curry and Klay Thompson heading in, and their absence was magnified when Kevin Durant was ejected for abusing the referee just before half time. Khris Middleton chipped in 23, while Eric Bledsoe had 20 for the Bucks, as they opened up a 23 point lead with 8:09 left in the game and held off the defending champions to notch their 40th win of the season.
Jabari Parker had 14 points and seven rebounds off the bench for the Bucks, two of those points coming on one of the highlights of the season for Milwaukee. In transition, Jason Terry lobbed a pass to Parker, who caught the ball with his arm at full extension behind his head, before slamming it down to wow the Oracle crowd. It was the latest in a string of moments that indicate Jabari has indeed kept all of his explosive athleticism.
Milwaukee head straight back to LA, for their second game in four days at Staples Center. This time they will meet the Lakers, a team that is slumping down the stretch, having lost five of their last seven games. The only win in that stretch have come against the Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks, two teams that are vying for the best odds in this years NBA draft lottery.
Rookie Lonzo Ball will miss the game for LA, suffering from a left knee contusion that he picked up in the Lakers win over Dallas on Wednesday night. Isaiah Thomas is out for the rest of the season after going in for hip surgery earlier this week, but Josh Hart will return to face the Bucks. Hart has missed the passed 14 games with a left hand injury. For Milwaukee, Thon Maker will again miss with a minor groin strain. Though at shoot around yesterday in San Francisco, he did tell me he “definitely expects to play on this road trip.”
Despite the win last night, Milwaukee still remain in the Easts 8th seed, one half game behind the Miami Heat and one full game behind the Washington Wizards in 6th. With seven games remaining, the Bucks can ill afford a slip up against a lower ranked team if they hope to climb those standings.
Kane’s Keys To Victory:
- Run, run, run: The Warriors certainly helped the Bucks by providing little transition defense, but we once again were able to see how potent Milwaukee can be offensively when they get up and down the court. Giannis, Bledsoe and Parker are unstoppable when in attack mode, and Middleton, Terry, Tony Snell and Sterling Brown provide dangerous threats on the perimeter in fast break situations. Regardless of the Lakers defense, the Bucks need to emphasize running the ball and getting into their offense as soon as possible. When they focus on this aspect, they look elite.
- Handle Randle: Like Jabari, Lakers forward Julius Randle is heading towards restricted free agency this off-season, and boy is his price tag rising. Averaging 16.2 points and eight rebounds per contest, Randle is bullying his way to a terrific season for the young Lakers, who now would be hard pressed not to give him whatever money he commands come July. It’s no secret the Bucks have struggled with physical big men this season, and Randle will provide them with a major challenge, particularly on the glass. In March, Randle has averaged 9.9 rebounds per game and looms as the danger player tonight for Milwaukee.
- MVP Giannis: Giannis made his intentions absolutely clear to everyone last night. He wasn’t going to let the Bucks lose. He was attacking the Warriors from all angles, rendering them useless on defense. When he is in that type of mood, the Bucks typically end up happy at the end of the night. With the season winding down, and the Bucks desperate to win as many as possible, they will need this version of Giannis to show up every night, as the playoff assault begins. Getting out of the 8th seed is the goal, and MVP Giannis is the man who will make it happen.
Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus