The Golden State Warriors’ last road trip of the season longer than three games starts tonight in Milwaukee against a Bucks team that has struggled to meet expectations thus far.
Here are three factors that you should know about Game No. 43:
1. Length everywhere
The Warriors are credited for being the first organization in pro basketball to embrace “positionless basketball.” But the Bucks have taken the idea to the next level.
Milwaukee typically pairs one diminutive guard (Eric Bledsoe or Matthew Dellavedova) with four players 6-foot-5 or taller.
Despite employing one of the tallest starting lineups in the NBA, it hasn’t led to production on the defensive side of the floor. Quite the opposite: In Jason Kidd’s fourth year as head coach, the Bucks have significantly regressed.
Since leading the franchise to a second-best defensive rating (99.3) in 2014-15, Kidd has seen that number steadily get worse every year. This season, they have the 23rd-best defensive rating (107.6), and it’s cost them.
They’re still in the top 10 for percentage of turnovers forced per possession, but that number has dropped from years past as the focus has shifted more toward offense.
The way the Warriors lose this game is if they submit one of their careless, high-turnover performances. If they can take care of the ball, they should be able to score and win easily.
2. Uncertain degree of difficulty
As of Thursday night, Curry was officially questionable with a sprained right ankle. Golden State has no interest in rushing him back for a (mostly) meaningless pre-All Star Break game, so fans shouldn’t count on his return until the team starts listing him as probable.
But, as was on display Wednesday night when the Dubs were outgunned by the Clippers, the offense sorely misses Curry when he isn’t on the floor.
According to Bleacher Report’s Andy Bailey, when Curry plays and Kevin Durant sits, the Warriors score 18.5 more points per 100 possessions than their opponents. When it’s the other way around (Curry out, Durant in) the Warriors beat their opponents by just 6.1 points per possession.
The Warriors are 9-4 without Curry this season.
3. Bucking the trends
Milwaukee, unlike most Eastern Conference teams, does better when playing an unfamiliar foe.
The Bucks are 12-5 this season against Western Conference opponents while carrying a less than .500 record (10-13) when playing teams closer to home.
But that slight advantage doesn’t outweigh a defining trend of the Warriors: They’re 8-0 after losses this season and 49-12 under head coach Steve Kerr.