Barely escaping the Celtics on a double-overtime victory, it was easy to think the best chance of beating the seemingly unstoppable Golden State Warriors had just slipped through the fingers. That is, until the Dubs ran into the young Milwaukee Bucks. What they met was an energy that they just couldn’t match for 48 minutes.
Essentially, the Bucks out-Warriored the Warriors. They won the three-point shooting contest, 42.9% to Golden State’s 23.1% from beyond the arc. Such numbers are rare for both teams, with the Warriors known for being the NBA’s most dangerous team from deep and the Bucks known for posing almost no threat from long range. The Bucks also managed to record 44 rebounds, an encouraging sign for a small team that usually struggles to keep up on the boards.
But the most telling statistic was the assist totals; the Bucks out-assisted the Warriors, the NBA’s best passing team, 31 to 23. The ball was constantly on the move on Milwaukee’s side of the court, always looking for the open man. The Warriors found themselves relying too heavily on center Andrew Bogut’s internal presence, so when the Bucks encountered Bogut in the paint, they would often kick it out for a higher-percentage look.
Notable performers on Milwaukee’s side included big man Greg Monroe, who contributed a team-high 28 points along with 11 rebounds and 5 assists; Giannis Antetokounmpo, who recorded his first career triple-double with 13 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists; and Jabari Parker, who went 9-14 from the field with 19 points of his own. Guards OJ Mayo and Michael-Carter Williams made their own important contributions, with Mayo hitting four 3’s en route to his 18 points, and Carter-Williams shooting 7-10 from the field along with 5 steals.
The Warriors’ production was largely made by reigning MVP Stephen Curry, who recorded 28 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists; and Draymond Green, who posted his usual monster line of 24 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 assists. Shooting guard Klay Thompson was unusually cold from the field, shooting just 4-14 and 2-7 from beyond the arc.
Still just 10-14, the Bucks still have a lot of work in front of them if they want a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. But after beating the Cavaliers earlier in the season and now the Warriors, it can be argued that they have the potential to beat any team on any given night. When a team has that much upside, any playoff seed should be the goal. And every NBA team will know that potential when they see that “1” after the Warriors’ win total.