The Warriors ultimately got their revenge against the streak-breaking Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night at Oracle Arena, but it didn’t go exactly as planned.
The Bucks outplayed the Warriors for three quarters, dropped 70 in the first half, and, after withstanding a Golden State run in the third quarter, held down an eight-point lead heading into the final stanza.
Then the Warriors exploded, and Oracle followed suit, with a 36-point fourth quarter and an incredible performance by the team’s tireless heartbeat, Draymond Green.
The Warriors’ 32-12 run to close out the game coincided with Stephen Curry’s early fourth quarter entrance with nearly nine minutes still remaining.
Yet it was Green that scored eight consecutive points in the game’s most crucial sequence, finishing it off with a 26-foot three-pointer from the top of the key to put the Warriors within three.
The sequence demoralized the visiting Bucks and energized the crowd, lifting the Warriors to a 121-112 victory and keeping their 30-game home winning streak alive.
Green finished with a quintessential Draymond-ish line of 21 points, seven rebounds and eight assists.
Curry scored 10 down the stretch and was an assist away from recording a triple-double finishing with a 26-points, 10 boards and nine assists of his own.
The Warriors made it clear that they weren’t pleased with the way the Milwaukee Bucks celebrated their victory last week that snapped the Warriors 24-game unbeaten streak to start the season, giving Friday’s rematch the anticipation normally reserved for a playoff game, something that has become the norm in this truly abnormal Warriors season.
One could foresee Golden State busting out of the gate and destroying Milwaukee on their home floor, something they make a habit of doing to opponents that haven’t provided the so-called “bulletin board material.”
It was somewhat surprising then, to see the Bucks (10-19), a team in the bottom 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, leading 70-58 at the end of the first half, while shooting nearly 60 percent from the field.
Much of the damage came from the Warriors public enemy No. 1, Milwaukee point guard Michael Carter-Williams, who Klay Thompson and Green called out during the week for staring down the Warriors bench after a game sealing dunk in the first matchup.
Cater-Williams — who recently lost his job as the Bucks’ starting point guard, something Draymond also made sure to mention — was back in the starting lineup Friday night. He got to the basket at will, repeatedly torching Curry on the offensive end and eventually forcing the Warriors to switch Thompson onto him. Williams finished with 24 points.
Curry’s defensive performance was indicative of the entire team’s defensive effort in the first half. Allowing a team that usually scores 90 points a game to go into halftime with 70.
It was not the kind of effort interim head coach Luke Walton was expecting the team to come out with, especially after the week of trash talking:
“That’s not who we are. We were very public about the fact that we wanted to get revenge, but we didn’t come out and play with that edge and mentality. If you’re gonna say that about another team, that team isn’t gonna fold … Defensively they were just taking turns scoring on us.”
The Warriors D bounced back in the second half, only allowing 42 points for the remainder of the game.
The hard fought contest wasn’t quite over after the final whistle blew, when Green and Bucks guard OJ Mayo engaged in a heated, face-to-face discussion, that ended with Green slapping away the arm of Mayo who attempted to pat Green on the head. A mild scrum ensued as the teams made their way to the locker room.
After a discussion with Joe Lacob, Green would not disclose the content of the conversation between him and Mayo, but made clear what he took issue with:
“No man is going to touch my head.”
He also added one last jab for good measure in his explanation to why he wasn’t satisfied with the win:
“We’re a long way past just beating the Milwaukee Bucks in December. We’re trying to compete for a championship.”
As expected, the Warriors made a run in the third quarter, cutting the lead to five on back to back buckets by Thompson, but Milwaukee closed the quarter with a strong effort, getting their lead back up to eight before entering the fourth.
The Warriors have five days off before playing the third game of their five game homestand, against the young Utah Jazz (11-14). The Warriors beat the Jazz in a tight contest away from home earlier in the season 106-103.
Andrew Bogut did not return after suffering from a slight back strain in the first quarter. The team is currently listing him as day-to-day.