At 10-15, the Milwaukee Bucks are nowhere near the contenders they were expected to be this season.
However, Saturday night they picked up the victory that every NBA team wanted, ending Golden State’s perfect start with a 108-95 win at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
Is that a victory that can jump-start their season or just a fluke that had more to do with the schedule than the Bucks? After all, Golden State was playing the seventh game of a road trip – no team has ever swept a trip that long – and on the second half of a back-to-back that started with a grueling double-overtime win over Boston.
The fatigue was obvious for the Warriors. They shot 23.1 percent from behind the arc, including 4-for-15 from Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, but the Celtics won coming off the same game, and the Bucks were also playing their second game in as many nights.
O.J. Mayo scored 18 points, but his biggest contribution was chasing Curry all night and making him work hard on both ends of the floor:
“They just played with energy, got in the driving lanes, got offensive rebounds,” Curry told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We showed some spurts to get back into the game; we got some stops. But for 48 minutes, I don’t think anybody can say we played as hard as they did.”
Mayo was hardly the only Buck to have a big night. Giannis Antetokounmpo put up 11 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for his first career triple-double, Jabari Parker had 19 points and seven rebounds, and Michael Carter-Williams added 17 points, five assists and five steals off the bench:
“It is a big win,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said, “for those young guys in the locker room, the time they put in for these 25 games and the effort from start to finish. You can say the crowd was off the charts, too.”
The star of the night, though, was Greg Monroe. Playing against Golden State’s killer small-ball lineup down the stretch, he took over the game. He scored 11 points in the fourth quarter, and finished with 28 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.
Monroe knew the Warriors would go small down the stretch, and planned to take advantage:
“They do that all the time. It’s what they go to. It’s something they did last year, and they won a championship like that,” he said. “Coach stuck with it. I was just trying to be aggressive. Obviously, Coach thought we had a mismatch.
“I just tried to make sure I made the right play whether it was attacking or finding my teammates if they came and helped.”
Golden State interim coach Luke Walton wasn’t happy about the loss, but acknowledged it’ll provide a relief from the pressure that had mounted as they kept winning:
“Even if you are 24-1, losing still sucks,” he said. “I’m sure the long flight home tomorrow and guys unwinding a bit, there will be a little relief mentally going forward. It was a lot of fun. We plan on continuing to win a lot of ball games.”
The game also meant the end of Golden State’s long road trip, meaning they can return to California and rest up before beating up on more teams.
That’s not good news for the Bucks, who are also heading to the sunny skies of the Golden State. After a Staples Center back-to-back against the Lakers and Clippers on Tuesday and Wednesday, they’ll be facing a well-rested, revenge-minded Warriors team at Oracle Arena.
If the Bucks can win two of those three games, especially the one in the Bay Area, Saturday’s upset might lead to something more than a day or two of headlines.