Bucks, Antetokounmpo provide challenge for Warriors
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OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Milwaukee Bucks would like to demonstrate that they could be a challenge to the Golden State Warriors' bid to three-peat in June when the clubs square off Thursday night for the only time this season.
The Bucks walked away with a road win the last time they saw the Warriors in March, taking advantage of a short-handed Golden State backcourt and a combined 75 points from Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe for a 116-107 victory.
That got the Bucks a split in the two-game season series, after the Warriors limited Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Bledsoe to 52 points in a 108-94 Golden State win at Milwaukee in January.
The teams meet this time around as two of the top teams in their respective conferences, with the Warriors (10-1) having won eight straight, while the Bucks (8-2) have lost two of three after a 7-0 start.
One year after going 28-6 against Eastern Conference teams, including 4-0 against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, the Warriors have opened with four straight wins against Eastern foes, running up a 20.3-point average margin of victory.
Golden State has scored 116 or more points in all eight games of its winning streak, although the two-time defending champs weren't totally satisfied with their 117-point output in Monday's 16-point home win over Memphis.
The Warriors now also find themselves concerned about a toe injury sustained by Draymond Green in the second quarter of the game. He had X-rays afterward that were negative, but he's already been declared out of Thursday's game.
"We're never as good without Draymond," Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters Wednesday. "He's a phenomenal defensive player, the best one in the league in my book, one of the best I've ever seen and a guy who has to do what modern-day power forwards do, which is cover the entire floor and rebound and stay in front of guards. Nobody is better than Draymond at that."
The three-time All-Star averaged 16.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists in the two games against the Bucks last season. He will be replaced by a committee of young big men Kevon Looney and Jordan Bell, together with Golden State newcomers Jonas Jerebko and Alfonzo McKinnie.
The Warriors were without Steph Curry in both meetings last season. Klay Thompson joined his backcourt mate on the sidelines for the home loss in March.
The Bucks are hoping to rebound from their worst offensive performance of the season in Tuesday's 118-103 loss at Portland that tipped off a four-game Western swing.
Antetokounmpo had 23 points in the loss, but continued to struggle from behind the 3-point line, going 0 for 2 to lower his league-worst percentage to 9.5 percent (2 for 21).
The league's 10th-leading scorer (25.8 points per game) was talking defense, not offense, after the game.
"We couldn't get stops," he said after watching Portland's CJ McCollum scorch his team for 40 points. "If you can't get stops, it doesn't matter how many shots you hit."
Thursday's nationally televised affair matches the NBA's two top teams in scoring (Warriors 123.5, Bucks 120.0) and assists (Warriors 30.5, Bucks 26.4).
The Bucks' last four opponents have averaged 113.3 points per game, while the Warriors have held just one opponent under 100 points all season, that being Minnesota in a 116-99 victory last Friday.
Updated November 8, 2018