Warriors takeaways: What we learned from ugly 134-111 loss to Bucks

Warriors takeaways: What we learned from ugly 134-111 loss to Bucks


OAKLAND -- The life of the Warriors’ win streak ended at eight games, and it came without mercy.

The physically imposing Milwaukee Bucks came into Oracle Arena on Thursday night and dropped the defending NBA champions 134-111 behind a display of authority seldom seen in the Steve Kerr era.

Warriors guard Stephen Curry left in the third quarter with a left adductor strain and did not return.

Klay Thompson seemed the least bothered by the activity, scoring a team-high 24 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the field.

Here are three takeaways from a loss that hurt the Warriors (10-2) in more ways than one:

Curry and Durant were really, really bothered

Curry and Kevin Durant specialize in making opponents look dazed, confused and helpless. They were force-fed some of their own stuff. Milwaukee’s length and mass basically boxed Durant in, and he couldn’t get out.

Durant made several attempts to get going and never reached the level we’re accustomed to seeing. He forced a few passes and failed spectacularly. He totaled 17 points (6-of-15 shooting) and had nine assists but also six turnovers. In the ‘That’s Incredible’ dept., he also had two of his shots blocked.

The Bucks are too good for the Warriors to beat without Curry and Durant playing at their usual level, which leads us to ...

They really, really missed Draymond Green

This was one of those losses that shined a bright light on Green's value. His absence was glaring, and there simply was no way to offset it.

Green is the team's human seltzer tablet. He makes the Warriors fizz at both ends, and when they’re fizzing, the sizzling usually follows. The defense crackles with intensity, and the offense flows into a cascade of points.

In Green’s place, the Warriors started Jordan Bell. He was the most logical candidate, and he did not come close to delivering what was needed. He picked up two fouls inside the first five minutes and did not return until the third quarter.

Bell played 22 minutes and finished with four points, five rebounds, three assists and four fouls. Kevon Looney was more productive, with eight points, five rebounds and two assists in 21 minutes. Neither was able to being the energy generally supplied by Green, though, and it showed.

The Bucks are going to be a load

The Warriors generally have difficulty finding their best stuff against Milwaukee. Simply put, the Bucks are a bad physical matchup.

But this game was an announcement to the rest of the NBA. The Bucks are long, they’re hyperactive, and now, under coach Mike Budenholzer, they are confident. There is a swagger to this team that was evident from the opening tip.

It’s not easy to come into Oracle, where the Warriors were 6-0 this season, and smoke the home team. The Bucks did. And in doing so, they further validated themselves as no less than a top-three team in the Eastern Conference.

The Warriors will see them only once more this season -- unless, of course, there is a highly significant meeting in June.

How James Harden's dagger three-pointer triggered Warriors' hot streak

How James Harden's dagger three-pointer triggered Warriors' hot streak

OAKLAND – The Warriors are disappointed and perhaps even infuriated that Rockets star James Harden, diagnosed with a cervical neck strain, is listed as questionable for the game Saturday at Oracle Arena.

They want Harden. The Warriors so badly want to confront him that they are practically praying he’ll be upgraded to available before the 5:35 tipoff. They want all the Rockets, but Harden’s presence is particularly significant.

As much as the Warriors want to be the team that halts Harden’s streak of 32 consecutive games with at least 30 points, they also have a score to settle.

The last time the Warriors faced Harden, he drained a buzzer-beating 3-pointer over the tight defense of Draymond Green and Klay Thompson to give the Rockets a 135-134 victory, in overtime, at Oracle Arena. When the shot went through, Harden stood and began staring and jawing toward Green.

That game, on Jan. 3, probably is the most exasperating of the Warriors’ 16 losses this season. The locker room was simmered with anger, some directed toward Harden but most of it toward themselves for blowing a 20-point second-half lead.

That was the team’s third loss in five games and it happened to be Houston, the closest thing the Warriors have to a real rival. And Harden, the reigning MVP, the man who has made an art of baiting defenders and officials, had plunged the dagger.

“James hit that shot and, obviously, that can be frustrating,” Green said late Thursday night. “But that happens. He’s a great scorer. He hit a tough shot over Klay and I. We’ll live with that.

“But we had a lead in that game and we allowed ourselves to be in that position. When you allow that to happen, anything can happen and it did.”

The residual hostility may have been the best thing to happen to the Warriors this season. The champs checked themselves, rededicated and won the next 11 games – their longest streak in 13 months – by an average margin of 17.5 points.

The defense turned up, as did the assist totals. The turnover count came down. Though not typically a strong rebounding team, the Warriors posted advantages in nine of the 11 games. There was a tip-to-horn 31-point win at Denver, a comeback victory in which they wiped out a 17-point deficit.

The Warriors were hungrier. They were, at times, downright ruthless.

“Losing bothers us,” Green said. “It don’t really matter if it’s against Houston or anybody else. We don’t like to lose. That’s part of the reason we don’t lose much. At that point of the season, we were losing a lot. And we knew we had to get it turned around. And we have.”

Three postseason series in the past four years – most recently a stressful seven-game 2018 Western Conference Finals – have brought additional heat to games between the Warriors and Rockets. As the only current Houston player to start every game in all series, Harden symbolizes the enemy. When he succeeds against the Warriors it’s considerably more annoying than if it were, say, San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge or Portland’s Damian Lillard.

So, yes, the Warriors want a piece of Harden every time they see him. He’s openly campaigning for a second consecutive MVP award and the Rockets are 21-11 during his streak. Primary running mates Chris Paul and Clint Capela, who missed much of the past two months, are back.

“We understand how talented they are, how well James has been playing,” Stephen Curry said. “I know they lost (Thursday), but it’s going to be a dogfight. We understand the momentum that we have been able to build, it’s going to be a defensive test for us.”

[RELATED: Rockets GM Daryl Morey isn't over Warriors beating them in 2018 playoffs]

The Warriors are 17-2 since Harden’s epic game-winner. Their offensive rating has been 4.5 points better than any other team. They’ve been playing their best ball, and they’d like to give Harden and the Rockets a taste of it.

If Harden can’t go, the lights on the marquee won’t be as bright. The Warriors’ fury might drop a notch, but it’s conceivable the sight of Chris Paul and those red and white jerseys will be enough to inflame proceedings.

NBA rumors: Draymond Green close to hiring agent who reps LeBron James

NBA rumors: Draymond Green close to hiring agent who reps LeBron James

Programming note: Watch the pregame edition of Warriors Outsiders Saturday at 4:00 p.m. PT, streaming live on the MyTeams app.

Not really sure who saw this one coming.

Warriors forward Draymond Green is close to hiring Rich Paul of Klutch Sports to serve as his agent, sources told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Paul represents LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Ben Simmons, John Wall and several other big-name NBA players. Paul's name has been in the news a lot lately because of the much-publicized saga between the Pelicans, their superstar big man, and the Lakers.

This news is sure to send some shockwaves around the league and keep the speculation wheel churning.

Draymond -- who is currently represented by former NBA player B.J. Armstrong -- is in Year 4 of the five-year, $82 million deal he signed with Golden State back in the summer of 2015.

Last July, he reportedly turned down a three-year, $72 million extension that would have put him under contract through the 2022-23 campaign.

If Draymond is named Defensive Player of the Year, he would become eligible for the "supermax" extension that falls in the neighborhood of $220 million over five years. If he falls short of that honor, the biggest contract he could sign with the Warriors in July is for about $129 million over five seasons.

The soon-to-be 29-year old and Golden State could also come to terms on a shorter-term extension that would begin in the 2020-21 season, or the three-time All-Star could table those discussions and test unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2020.

Is Draymond trying to send any specific message to Warriors ownership or management by changing representation? Maybe, maybe not. 

But this definitely adds another layer of intrigue to what is already going to be a monumental summer.

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller