Last Saturday night, the Warriors’ 24-game winning streak to open the season was ended, on the road, against the Bucks.
It was a spectacular game. I was cheering for history, and I never gave up hope until the Warriors were down eleven with ninety seconds to go. How could I? Golden State’s smothering defense can force turnovers and Steph Curry can rain threes, erasing even a double-digit lead in a minute or two.
The atmosphere at the game was electric. That phrase is overused, but in this case, it’s completely true. It’s only December, but the fans were cheering like it was a Game 7. The Bucks even handed out shirts reading “24-1” on the front.
Greg Monroe was impossible to defend. The Warriors couldn’t go to the so-called Death Lineup (or as Curry calls it, the “Uh-Oh Lineup) thanks to Monroe’s punishing post-up game. He pushed through defenders all-game, throwing in lefty layups and floaters on his way to 28 points on a mere sixteen shots.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was unstoppable as well. Despite taking only 11% of his team’s shots, the Greek Freak was a force all game, compiling eleven points, twelve rebounds, and ten assists for a triple-double.
Even Michael Carter-Williams managed to put his shooting woes behind him, shooting seven out of ten from the field and scoring seventeen points. He played tenacious defense, racking up five steals, resulting in fast-break chances for easy points.
Most impressively for the Bucks was the poor shooting night they inflicted on Curry. The early favorite for MVP shot only ten of twenty-one from the field, including an awful two of eight from three-point range.
This inefficiency was not limited to Curry. The team as a whole only shot 40.9% from the field and 23.1% from three. The Warriors even managed to miss eight free throws.
Some people have decided that Milwaukee has managed to figure out the formula to beating Golden State. Let’s work through that formula together to see one, if it has any basis in fact, and two, if it will work in the playoffs.
First, this game was in Milwaukee. Assuming Golden State earns home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, an opponent will have to win in Oracle Arena to eliminate the Warriors.
Next, this game was a back-to-back for the Warriors, which contributed to their lackadaisical play early on. In the playoffs, there are no back-to-backs.
On top of that, Golden State’s game the night before was a double-overtime game in Boston. The Warriors’ best two players, Curry and Draymond Green, played an exhausting 47 and 50 minutes, respectively. After the draining game against the Celtics, the Warriors flew to Milwaukee, arriving at their hotel at around 3:00 AM.
Finally, Harrison Barnes, the starter at small forward and the fifth member of the Lineup of Death (alongside Curry, Green, Klay Thompson, and Andre Iguodala), sat out his eighth straight game due to a sprained left ankle.
To recap, the formula to beating the Warriors is to play them at home, after they played a double-overtime game the night before and got to their hotel at three in the morning, have one of their starters out with an injury, and force the best shooter in NBA history and his team into an uncharacteristic poor shooting night.
Sounds pretty easy to replicate. The Warriors are doomed.