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Analysis: Defense, supporting cast lead Warriors to road win over Bucks

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The Warriors held the Bucks to a season-low 95 points while Andre Iguodala scored a season-high 15 points to help his team earn their third-straight victory.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Milwaukee Bucks Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Warriors traveled to Milwaukee on Friday night to play the final game of this road trip against the Bucks. Despite his pleading with the coaching staff, Draymond Green still had to miss this game as he recuperates from a sprained right toe. But even though they’d be without their defensive stalwart, the Warriors were locked in from the opening tip against the Bucks. Thanks to stifling defense, key performances from their supporting players, and timely points from their stars, the Warriors got the 105-95 victory.

The Dubs’ defense contains the Bucks

In their first matchup, one in which they were without their best defender in Green, the Warriors struggled to stop the Bucks’ offense on their way to a 134-111 loss, the most points a Warriors team had allowed since Game 4 of the 2017 NBA Finals. On Friday night, the Warriors played much more inspired defense, holding the Bucks to a season-low 95 points.

Playing against that focused Warriors defense, the Bucks shot 39.1% from the field and just 17.9% from three-point range, easily their poorest shooting performance of the season. The Bucks have been one of the best offensive teams in this 2018-19 and yet they were very much held in check by the Warriors on Friday night.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 22 points for his team but those points did not come easy, with many of them having to be earned at the free-throw line. Against a player accustomed to scoring at least 30 points a game like Antetokounmpo, that constitutes a good game defensively. The Warriors put pressure on Antetokounmpo, throwing double teams at him and forcing the other Bucks players to step up. But outside of Malcolm Brogdon and Eric Bledsoe, no one else was really up for the challenge.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Milwaukee Bucks
The Warriors contained Antetokounmpo (at least as much as one team can) on their way to a ten-point win over the Bucks.
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Forcing players who didn’t want to be taking shots or who couldn’t make them led to shot-clock violations as well as wild and errant shots, allowing the Warriors to get the ball back and push the tempo. This pressure also resulted in 19 turnovers for the Bucks.

What makes the Warriors’ stellar defense all the more impressive is that they were without Green, a former Defensive Player of the Year and someone who could be a big help against a team like the Bucks who boast such an athletic front court. If they can play defense like this even without Green, just think about what they can do with him...

Between the defensive effort by the Warriors and players diving for loose balls or stepping in to draw charges, Friday night’s game had a distinctly playoff feel to it.

If these two teams do end up meeting later in June, this game stands as pretty strong evidence that it will be an exciting and intense series, one that will be very fun to watch.

Supporting cast carries the load

Another thing that gave this game its strong playoff vibes was a dialed-in and energized Andre Iguodala. Iguodala was a big part of tough Warriors defense against the Bucks, using his length to contest shots. Iguodala also used his trademark quick hands to block a shot here, which he subsequently turned into a dunk at the other end.

Iguodala finished the game against the Bucks with a season-high 15 points while also pulling down 8 rebounds and handing out 2 assists. Iguodala made 3 shots from long distance, the most three-pointers he’s had in one game since Game 4 of the 2018 NBA Finals.

The Warriors got 20 points from both Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, but it was these supporting players who were the difference in this win over the Bucks.

Kevon Looney scored 8 points and grabbed 7 rebounds, once again looking right at home in the Warriors’ starting lineup, all while playing solid defense the great Antetokounmpo. With the injury to Damian Jones and DeMarcus Cousins not yet ready to join the team, the Warriors need big things from Looney, which is exactly what they got from him on Friday night.

In just his second game back after missing the previous nine with a foot injury, Alfonzo McKinnie came up big against the Bucks. McKinnie scored 9 points, with all of them coming from the three-point shot.

Jonas Jerebko also gave the Warriors a boost off of the bench. Jerebko scored 12 points against the Bucks, the fifth time this season that he has scored 12 or more points in a game. Like McKinnie, all of Jerebko’s points came courtesy of the three-point shot. Jerebko attempted nine three-pointers against the Bucks, which was a career-high for him.

What Jerebko and McKinnie have shown is a willingness to shoot the ball when they get an open look. The offense that Steve Kerr runs needs these players to take those shots if they’re open.

When they make them like they did on Friday night, the Warriors are very tough to beat, even on a night when Curry and Thompson aren’t scoring like they normally do.

A rare rough game from Durant

Things weren’t completely perfect for the Warriors. Once again, sloppy play was the thing that held the Warriors back and kept an opponent in a game.

The Warriors turned the ball over 18 times on Friday night, which resulted in 26 points for the Bucks. While the Warriors were able to overcome Green’s absence on defense, where they really might have missed him was on offense. When it comes to attacking an active like the Bucks, one that can pressure a team into making mistakes, Green’s great eye and impressive basketball IQ are both invaluable things to have on the court.

It was a particularly rough game for Kevin Durant, who was responsible for seven of the Warriors’ turnovers. Durant scored just 11 points while going 3/14 from the field. The 11 points were a season-low for Durant and ended a streak of 14 games in which he had scored 20 or more points.

Durant did make contributions in other aspects of the game, handing out 6 assists and grabbing 8 rebounds. Durant also did a good job setting up Curry, including setting a nice screen here that got Curry open for one of his three-point makes.

Perhaps most importantly, Durant did play great defense against Antetokounmpo. Durant slowed down the Bucks’ MVP candidate just enough to make the sure the Warriors could get the win.

Durant had been playing so well up until this game, he was probably due for a bad game. It also makes sense that he’d have a subpar offensive game while having to defend one of the best players in the game in Antetokounmpo. But even though his shots weren’t falling and he was giving the ball away, Durant remained focused and engaged.

Having finished this five-game road trip, the Warriors get to return to Oracle Arena, where they’ll face off against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night.