Without Draymond Green, Warriors overwhelmed by Milwaukee Bucks

By C.J. Peterson
Special to S.F. Examiner

OAKLAND — Sitting on the bench in full street attire, Draymond Green’s jaw dropped as Milwaukee Bucks forwards Giannis Antetokounmpo bullied his way past Kevon Looney to throw down a vicious dunk two minutes into the second quarter on Thursday night.

For the Golden State Warriors, Antetokounmpo’s signature play of the evening would represent the beginning of a frustrating night, both offensively and defensively. Without Green — whose impact on the game was limited to the meme-generating reaction, due to a sprained right toe — the Warriors suffered their worst loss of the young 2018 season: A 134-111 drubbing at the hands of Antetokounmpo’s Bucks.

“They came in and kicked out ass,” said Warriors forward Jonas Jerebko. “Our game wasn’t where it was supposed to be… Hats off to them.”

In place of the hobbled Green, who was officially ruled out of Thursday’s game on Wednesday afternoon, head coach Steve Kerr opted to start second-year forward Jordan Bell. Last season, Bell started 13 games for the Warriors.

Taking on the defensive assignment of Antetokounmpo, Bell looked overmatched and underprepared, picking up two fouls within the first five minutes of the game. But that was just the beginning for a foul-heavy evening for Golden State.

“Obviously Draymond gives us everything that he does every night,” Kerr said. “But when you come out with sort of a mindless intent and you’re fouling and not executing against a really good team, you’re not going to fare very well.”

Along with Bell, Warriors guard Stephen Curry found himself at the mercy of the whistle early on. By the six-minute mark, Curry, too, was on the bench after picking up a pair of fouls.

By the end of the first period, the Warriors had committed seven team fouls, sending Milwaukee to the free throw line nine times. Golden State, on the other hand, had only been to the line twice.

“They shot a lot of free throws to start the game,” said Warriors forward Kevin Durant. “There were a couple of calls that could have gone either way.”

While the fouls piled up quickly for Golden State, the Bucks found a rhythm shooting the ball. Shooting 48 percent from the floor, Milwaukee had five players with 10 or more points by halftime.

Antetokounmpo would lead with 19 at the break, while point guard Eric Bledsoe added 12 and Pat Connaughton dropped in 13. Without Green on the floor, many of Milwaukee’s baskets came at point blank range near the rim, and on second-chance opportunities, thanks to five offensive rebounds.

“It’s nothing that they don’t bring every single night,” Kerr said. “They attack the rim really well and they are strong.”

Antetokounmpo would finish the evening with 24 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks, while Bledsoe led Milwaukee with 26 points and six assists.

As the Warriors looked to be in shambles and on the defensive side of the ball, things did not look much better on offense. For a team that thrives in high-paced games, Golden State regressed to a much slower, half-court style of offense without Green on the floor to facilitate.

Forced into tough shot after tough shot, the Warriors shot an abysmal 26-percent from three point range in the first half, hitting only four of their attempted 15 3-point shots.

Wings Jonas Jerebko and Alfonzo McKinnie combined to go 0-for-6 from 3-point range in the first half. Before the game, the pair had combined to shoot 53.1 percent from distance.

“We weren’t hitting the three, we were taking the ball out of the basket and we weren’t getting stops,” Jerebko said. “We didn’t really get to play our game.”

Down 13 to start the second half, Golden State opened the third quarter with a 5-0 run, but Milwaukee quickly snuffed out the chance for one of the Warriors’ patented third-quarter deluges.

Milwaukee outscored the Warriors 41-28 in the third, shooting 56 percent fromt he field, and taking 12 more shots. This was thanks in part to six Golden State turnovers and four Bucks offensive rebounds.

Curry had left with three-and-a-half minutes remaining in the third quarter with what the team called an adductor strain. According to Kerr, the two-time MVP will undergo an MRI on Friday morning to check the severity of the strain.

By the time the fourth and final period rolled around, both team’s benches had been cleared as Golden State had officially thrown in the towel, down by 26 points.

The loss was the Warriors’ worst at Oracle Arena since a 129-100 opening-night loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Oct. 25, 2016.

“We’ll be back in the lab tomorrow,” Jerebko said. “We’ll be fine.”

Warriors blow out Mavericks in Game 1. But what did you expect?

Golden State holds home court as Dallas, Dončić come out flat

Warriors vs. Mavericks preview: Another series, another superhero

Round after round, Golden State has faced the NBA’s best. Next up, Luka Dončić