Nineteen last shots for the 19 field goals attempted by Milwaukee forward Giannis Antetokounmpo on Friday night.
1. For much of the season the Bucks have played to the level of their competition. They’ve had impressive wins against the likes of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs, and Minnesota Timberwolves.
2. Milwaukee has also lost frustrating games to teams that shouldn’t be competitive with them. They’ve slipped up against the Bulls, and Hornets twice, the Mavericks, and the Jazz.
3. The showdown against the Warriors was one that could be thought of as a measuring stick for this young Milwaukee team that’s still looking to ‘Own the Future.’ After all, the Warriors were in the shoes of Milwaukee four or five years ago.
4. Since the start of the 2014-15 season, the Bucks are 1-5 against the Warriors. While the lone win is certainly a memorable one, it is the only one. The Bucks famously ended Golden State’s NBA record season-opening 24-game winning streak to start the 2015-16 season that saw the Warriors win an NBA record 73 games.
5. Friday night fell in line with much of the past between the two teams. The length and athleticism of the Bucks certainly makes life difficult for Golden State at times, but in the end the Bucks just don’t quite have the talent that the Warriors do. Few teams, if any in the NBA do.
6. Give the Bucks credit, they were able to cut into a 14-point lead built by the Warriors. Golden State typically isn’t a team that blows leads. It helped that the Warriors were without star guard Steph Curry, but nonetheless, a young team very easily could have packed it in and lied down for the defending champs in that situation.
7. The Bucks came all the way back to take the lead at 82-80 on a Tony Snell 3-pointer with 56.8 seconds left in the third quarter. The Bucks outscored the Warriors 33-17 in the third quarter, thanks in large part to 11 points from guard Malcolm Brogdon.
8. Brogdon knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in the quarter and the Bucks hit 6-of-8 shots from behind the arc as a team. One of the more impressive aspects of the third quarter run for Milwaukee is that much of it came with Antetokounmpo on the bench. He played 7:19 of the quarter. While he was on the bench for the final 4:41 of the period, Warriors star Kevin Durant played the full quarter and was held to four points on 2-of-6 shooting.
9. Outside of that quarter, Durant was 10-of-14 shooting for 22 points. He was the difference maker on the floor Friday night, as he often is for the Warriors. Durant takes this Golden State team to another level. Prior to acquiring him in the summer of 2016 the Warriors were one of the best teams the NBA had ever seen. They were explosive offensively and terrific defensively. They were still mortal, however, as their margin for error wasn’t ultimately as large as previously thought. Adding Durant to that equation made their margin for error humongous.
10. Previously, a third quarter run that the Bucks had might have been enough to win the game against the Warriors. Durant eliminated that Friday. His fourth quarter sealed the win for Golden State.
11. With the Warriors clinging to a 94-90 lead after a pair of free throws by Eric Bledsoe, Durant knocked down a fadeaway jumper from the left elbow over the outstretched hand of Khris Middleton. The defense played by Middleton was fantastic. He was in the right position, did everything possible, and it didn’t matter as Durant splashed the ball through the net from 18-feet out.
12. As the pair went down to the other end of the floor Durant had words for Middleton. While it’s not revealed what they said, Durant would not have been out of line if he had apologized to Middleton for what he just did, and what he was about to do.
13. Middleton got the ball on the right wing, attempted to get to the rim and make a pass to the corner. He ended up turning the ball back over to the Warriors. Once back down the floor Durant came off a screen to the top of the key and buried a 3-pointer.
14. Just like that, the Warriors went from being in a close game with 3:11 left in regulation to sucking the life and sending the Bucks’ fans home with 2:19 left.
15. The easy comparison to make here is one between Antetokounmpo and Durant. Both are near 7-foot in stature and athletic freaks that can almost score at will. Obviously, Durant is a much more polished shooter from the outside and Antetokounmpo can be considered the better scorer around the rim at this point.
16. To ask Antetokounmpo to become Durant at this point in his career is a tall task. Durant very well could go down as one of the five best scorers in NBA history. Their styles of play may never allow them to be realistic matches for a legitimate comparison, but the impact that they have on the game is what the Bucks should hope can be compared in the future.
17. Antetokounmpo has elevated the Bucks to a playoff-caliber team, and one that could potentially make noise in the Eastern Conference this year. One day, the Bucks hope to be in the same situation as the Warriors where they’re hunting for championships and playing with a high margin for error. They’re not there yet, but neither were the Warriors five seasons ago.
18. “I think we’ve been inconsistent,” said Brogdon of Milwaukee’s play in the first half of the season. “I think we’ve honestly underperformed so far, but I think we have a lot of potential and we’re going to rise to the expectations and rise to the occasion in the second half of the season.”
19. The ceiling in Milwaukee is certainly high as long as Antetokounmpo is in the picture. The margin for error still has a long way to go until the Bucks become a true championship contender.