The Golden State Warriors held off a Milwaukee Bucks second-half rally to earn a 108-94 victory on Friday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
With Stephen Curry out for the second straight game because of an ankle injury, Kevin Durant led the way by scoring 26 points for Golden State. The Bucks were able to keep things interesting, erasing a 63-49 halftime deficit to take a four-point lead in the fourth quarter.
The Warriors got back on track in the final 12 minutes, though, outscoring Milwaukee 28-12, which helped them avoid losing back-to-back games for the first time in the 2017-18 NBA season.
Giannis Antetokounmpo did everything in his power to keep the Bucks in the contest with 23 points and seven rebounds, but the Warriors defense held the team to 42.4 percent shooting from the field.
Martenzie Johnson of The Undefeated jokingly highlighted Milwaukee's start to the game as evidence it could hang with the Warriors:
That wasn't quite as good as things got for the Bucks, but they struggled to find consistency throughout against Golden State's defense. They scored 60 combined points in the first and third quarters, only to have 34 in the second and fourth.
Per Anthony Slater of The Athletic, Golden State's second unit tightened the strings on defense against the Bucks:
Per ESPN Stats & Info, the Warriors defense was creating problems for Antetokounmpo when he was forced out of the paint:
Golden State had its five-game winning streak snapped in a 125-106 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday at Oracle Arena.
To get back on track, Golden State shot 55.0 percent from the field. Its usually precise three-point shooting was lacking with just five makes on 15 attempts, but that didn't slow down the offense.
Durant used his one-on-one matchup against Antetokounmpo to send a message to Milwaukee's 23-year-old superstar with this fake and dunk in the second quarter:
That play ignited Golden State's 14-4 run to close the first half with a 14-point lead after the Bucks got within four points.
After the first quarter, Slater noted Durant has shown no signs of rust in his return from a calf injury that kept him out for three games:
The Warriors have only had Curry and Durant on the court together twice since Dec. 6, yet defeating the Bucks moved their record to an NBA-best 34-9.
Per ESPN Stats & Info, Golden State's starting lineup Friday wasn't accustomed to playing in games with each other:
It speaks to the Warriors' depth that they remain the class of the NBA despite Durant's calf issues and Curry's 15 missed games.
The Warriors also didn't get a strong showing from Klay Thompson, who had 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting and had his streak of consecutive games with a three-pointer made come to an end:
Draymond Green did a little bit of everything with 21 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. He put the final nail in Milwaukee's coffin with a three-pointer in the final two minutes that extended Golden State's lead to 102-92.
Despite the loss, Milwaukee can be encouraged by its effort. It had the Warriors on the ropes early in the fourth quarter, but the offense went ice-cold after Malcolm Brogdon's dunk extended the lead to 84-80.
Four players also scored in double figures: Antetokounmpo, Brogdon, Eric Bledsoe and Tony Snell.
The Bucks managed just one more made field goal (five) than turnover (four) in the fourth quarter, though. Being able to close against an elite team is one thing keeping this up-and-coming group just on the outside of the Eastern Conference top tier.
The Warriors, meanwhile, quietly continue to go about their business. That 4-3 start is a distant memory now that they have stormed back to the top of the Western Conference standings with Curry still working his way back to full strength.
The Bucks will next have a chance to improve their record Sunday when they face the Miami Heat, while Golden State will take on the Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday.