Preview: Bucks at Warriors

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OAKLAND, Calif. — Confident it has regained its
championship-level form following a big win over the Orlando
Magic, the Golden State Warriors figure to get more of a
challenge when the Milwaukee Bucks visit on Saturday night.

The Warriors have won twice to open a three-game homestand that
followed a brutal eight-game stretch in which the club went
just 3-5. But the two home wins this week were nothing alike.

Playing without injured star Kevin Durant, the Warriors
struggled to rally past the Philadelphia 76ers 106-104 on
Tuesday night, before exploding early and coasting to a 122-92
shellacking of the Magic on Thursday.

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“To have a game like that always helps,” Warriors forward
Draymond Green declared of the Orlando demolition. “We looked
like a completely different team.”

Suffice to say, Saturday’s opponent is a completely different
team than Thursday’s. Despite a key loss of their own —
standout forward Jabari Parker is out for the season with a
knee injury — the Bucks (34-34) have won eight of their last
nine games to move into the seventh spot in a tightly bunched
Eastern Conference playoff race.

The Bucks will be playing the second half of a back-to-back
when they face the Warriors. Milwaukee assured itself of at
least a split by outlasting the Los Angeles Lakers 107-103 on
Friday night behind Khris Middleton’s 30 points.

The Bucks’ leading scorer last season, Middleton missed the
club’s first 50 games this year while recovering from a torn
hamstring. His return coincided almost exactly with Parker’s
injury, and he’s averaged 18.1 much needed points during
Milwaukee’s nine-game hot streak.

He saved 14 of his 30 points Friday night for when the Bucks
needed them most — following a third-quarter scuffle in which
three players were ejected.

“After things like that, there’s always a momentum swing, and
it swung their way,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said of a Lakers
rally early in the final period. “The guys stayed the course.
They kept playing, and we found a way to keep the lead and
finish the game.”

Middleton wasn’t available when the Bucks took the Warriors to
the wire before losing 124-121 at home in November. Durant had
33 points in the win.

Warriors guard Stephen Curry chipped in with 20 points, but
missed 10 of his 11 3-point attempts. As it turns out, it was a
sign of things to come.

Curry, who hit 45.4 percent of his threes during a run to a
unanimous Most Valuable Player honor last season, has slumped
to 39.2 percent this season.

He’s been particularly off his mark in Golden State’s last 10
games, most of which have been played without Durant. Curry has
gone just 25-for-96 (26.0 percent) from beyond the arc in his
slump.

A Bucks-Warriors matchup pits two of the league’s most
versatile players — Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and
Green.

Antetokounmpo was at his usual all-around brilliance in
Friday’s win over the Lakers, going for 26 points, eight
rebounds, five assists and two blocks.

Green had nine points, 11 rebounds and six assists in just 25
minutes in his most recent outing, Thursday’s win over Orlando.

The Warriors might have won the war over the Bucks in their
earlier meeting, but Antetokounmpo won his personal battle with
Green, outscoring him 30-10, outrebounding him 4-2 and
out-assisting him 6-5.

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