The Golden State Warriors are going to have to shake off their disappointing (but not altogether unpredictable) loss to the Houston Rockets in a hurry. The Milwaukee Bucks are in town tonight and they’re bringing a mixture of players that are just the kind of matchups the Warriors hate.
Monta Ellis (remember him?) and Brandon Jennings are both quick, aggressive guards. Golden State’s backcourt defenders have a tendency to reach when out of position, so it’ll be key for Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Jarrett Jack to move their feet and rely on the back line of defense to help when they’re beaten.
That’s going to be scary with David Lee pretending to care behind them, but with former Buck Andrew Bogut and even Festus Ezeli in the middle, there should be plenty of bulk to deter penetration.
The other problem, though, is that the Bucks have a solid stable of three-point shooters to whom their backcourt duo can kick the ball if and when the Warriors collapse in the paint. J.J. Redick and Mike Dunleavy are capable gunners, and Ersan Ilyasova can fill it up, too. Really, the best strategy for the Dubs defense tonight is to let Jennings and Ellis try to finish at the rim instead of sucking in and allowing a host of Milwaukee triples.
The other issue is the Bucks’ active bigs. Larry Sanders might well be the most dominant interior defender in the league, and John Henson and Ekpe Udoh are both mobile and persistent on the glass. Assuming the Warriors spend a fair amount of time going small with Bogut likely to rest (or possibly not play) on the second night of a back-to-back set, everyone will have to pay attention to Milwaukee’s length on both ends.
Realistically, the Warriors should win this game. They’ve got more talent and have a chip on their shoulder after suffering a third-straight loss to the Rockets. But very little about the way Golden State has played lately inspires much confidence.
WHO: Milwaukee Bucks (35-28) vs. Golden State Warriors (30-29)
WHERE: Oracle Arena
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. PT, CSN Bay Area
AT STAKE: The Warriors kick off a four-game string of home games against Eastern Conference teams. With the Rockets and Lakers looking playoff ready, the Dubs need to start getting fat against the league’s weaker conference so it’s the Utah Jazz—and not them—that falls out of the postseason picture.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Harrison Barnes. Poor shot selection down the stretch against the Rockets and a recent uncertainty with the ball has rendered him invisible for long stretches. He’s got to start making an impact.
PREDICTION: The Warriors eke out a close one to ease the pain of their loss last night to the Rockets. Warriors 107, Bucks 104.