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Jan 13, 2024 6:39 am

Rested Bucks set for visit from winded Warriors

The Milwaukee Bucks catch a huge break in the schedule for the second consecutive game when they host the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night.

As was the case when Milwaukee took advantage of a Boston Celtics back-to-back to crush its Eastern Conference rival 135-102 on Thursday, the Bucks enjoyed Friday off while the Warriors were involved in a basketball-style track meet in Chicago.

A short-handed Golden State squad prevailed 140-131 but had to burn Stephen Curry for 35 minutes and Klay Thompson for 34 minutes in doing so.

The extensive playing time didn’t seem to bother the Warriors stars in the opener of a four-game trip. Curry (15 points) and Thompson (six) did all of Golden State’s scoring over the final 6:05, enabling the visitors to snap a two-game losing streak.

Not necessarily with the Bucks and the second night of a back-to-back in mind, Thompson used the label “championship team” after the much-needed win to describe the current state of the club. The Warriors not only were coming off a 2-5 homestand, but they took on the Bulls without Draymond Green, Gary Payton II, Chris Paul and Moses Moody.

“This can be a championship team,” Thompson said after contributing to the Warriors’ second-highest point total of the season. “Obviously, we can’t claim that right now. We know when we get whole — and we have to hold down the fort while some of our best players are out — we can be as good as anybody.

“We’ve beaten the best teams in the league. We’ve competed with teams down to the wire. We know the sky’s the limit. We can’t be discouraged because of our record. We know we’re better than that.”

When the teams meet for the first time this season, the Warriors won’t be seeing a Bucks team that is firing on all cylinders either. Milwaukee lost four of five, including two defeats at home, before the schedule-aided breeze past the Celtics.

While the Warriors have an excuse to exercise load management in Milwaukee, the Bucks actually do, too. They will be playing the front end of a back-to-back, with a tougher challenge — the rested Sacramento Kings — coming to town for a Sunday contest.

Golden State earned the win at Chicago came despite allowing 70 or more points in the first half for the third consecutive game. The Bucks haven’t been much better on defense of late, giving up 125 or more in three of their past five games.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, a perennial candidate for the NBA’s All-Defense team, has blasted his team’s defensive effort on multiple occasions of late, noting after a 12-point loss to the Indiana Pacers last week, “We cannot let a team score 140 points on us and we’re trying to score 142. You cannot be consistent that way.”

In the wake of Milwaukee’s latest victory, Antetokounmpo said, “Hopefully, we can keep this up not just against the Boston Celtics, not just when we have two days off or not when we have not played well. Even if we’ve played well and even if we’ve played bad, be able to come into the game and play with the same urgency and with the same focus and with the same energy.”

If a shootout between Curry and Antetokounmpo were to break out Saturday, it would be a first. They have never combined for more than 50 points in 14 career head-to-heads, with Curry averaging just 20.1 points in those games and Antetokounmpo 18.8.

–Field Level Media

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