OAKLAND, CA – Stephen Curry called his shot long before he set foot on the Oracle Arena floor on Thursday night. Before defending the 134-111 loss with the Milwaukee Bucks, one that Curry exiled early due to a problem with the left adductor, he spent some of his post-workouts Wednesday afternoon discussing the status of the new Bucks – the team that has gained the attention of the championship for the first weeks of the season.
"I think [their situation] it's very similar to four years ago here, "Curry explained." A change of scenery sometimes helps. Get some energy, a little shift in focus and perspective, and that little difference can unlock something. It is still early. They are taking care of business as they should. It's important to have such a high potential to start well, but the season will work out as it should. "
Curry, the two-time MVP NBA, knows from experience how much a change of coaching and some adjustments can make for a growing young team. Four years ago, Steve Kerr was chosen to replace Mark Jackson as head coach of the Golden State Warriors, rebuilding what would become one of the league's most prolific crimes in the process.
This summer, the Bucks took advantage of Mike Budenholzer to replace the temporary head coach Joe Prunty, who replaced Jason Kidd in the middle of last season. Budenholzer, like Kerr, was brought up to get the Bucks offended and go at a different pace than Prunty or Kidd.
Warrior guard Stephen Curry is scheduled to undergo an MRI scan on Friday after leaving Thursday's loss with an adductor problem in his left leg.
The Greek Freak has opened a new building in Milwaukee and has declared that its Bucks are ready to ascend in the East.
While the Bucks are wary of the optimism that comes with a start of 9-2, the reality of having just entered the home of the reigning champions and throwing them out has brought a wave of excitement that this team was looking for. when general manager Jon Horst made Budenholzer the new coach months ago.
"I think the teams are starting to take notice and realize we're not the Bucks we were when I came here six years ago," said Bucks' little forward Khris Middleton. "We are a completely different team also from last year."
The Bucks are a different team because they have a different mentality within the Budenholzer system. They trust where they should be on the floor and believe that the ball will find the man open. That conviction was exposed in full Thursday as the Bucks opened their eyes up and down the floor against the big and bad Warriors (though without the defensive defensive force forward Draymond Green) and played without fear in the framework of an offensive renaissance in which they have invested.
Several players gave Budenholzer the game plan, while veteran Eric Bledsoe noted that the transition was the biggest key for the group.
"I think we're completely bought," Bledsoe said. "We had a lot of assists: last year we probably could not have played 20 assists, so we're probably doing an average of 20 assists at the moment – so it's huge for us."
Eric Bledsoe overtakes Stephen Curry and draws a foul before sinking a float, sending Curry on the bench.
To put in perspective how much the Bucks' performance was dominant in Oakland, consider that Milwaukee outclassed the Warriors 84-34 in the paint. This was the worst Golden State differential in the Kerr era, according to ESPN Stats and Information research. The 134 points that the Warriors gave up were the second more than a team led by Kerr allowed – and more than one opponent scored at Oracle Arena in an extraordinary game since the Phoenix Suns lost 154 of the Warriors in 2009.
"It's huge," shooting guard Bucks Malcolm Brogdon said of the victory. "It's huge for our confidence, I think it sends a message throughout the league, but regardless, I think we have to keep playing hard every night and playing on both fronts."
But how have things changed so much for a group that has many of the same key pieces along with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Middleton? Apart from the veteran contributions of Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova, the difference is that the Bucks shoot at 3 points at a much higher rate than the Kidd regime. Their frequency of 3 points of 44.0 percent this season covers only the Houston Rockets at 47.5 percent.
"I think it's surprising people," admitted Brogdon. "Bud allows us to take them back with confidence, so we're doing a lot more and adding a completely different dimension to us."
|3s per game (%)||2018-19||2017-18|
|Khris Middleton||3.6 (45.5)||1.8 (35.9)|
|Brook Lopez *||2.3 (36.8)||1.5 (34.5)|
|Malcolm Brogdon||1.5 (43.2)||1.3 (38.5)|
|Tony Snell||1.5 (48.5)||1.4 (40.3)|
|Eric Bledsoe||1.5 (32.7)||1.7 (34.7)|
|Ersan Ilyasova *||1.2 (40.6)||1.3 (36.0)|
|Pat Connaughton *||1.1 (40.9)||0.9 (35.2)|
|Donte DiVincenzo *||1.1 (27.3)||n / A|
|* He reached Bucks this season|
Is this the biggest difference between this year's group and last year's version?
"I would not say it's the biggest difference," said Brogdon. "I would say that now we have a lot of structures, we have more sets we can enter, we only have more bases to play than just freestyle".
The ease with which the Bucks enjoy playing in the Budenholzer system is evident in the way they play. There is a happy and free nature in the group on the floor that was not there last season. They believe in themselves and trust the system that Budenholzer is implementing. While the name of Kidd has never been mentioned, it is not difficult to read between the lines and know that the Bucks are enjoying the new beginning that comes with a new solo voice.
"We are trying to improve the night, the night," said Lopez. "We hope it will be a better team than April and May compared to today, we have been very well tonight and we would like to continue to be so, especially in defense".
In addition to the Budenholzer adaptation, the Bucks also have Antetokounmpo to drive on the floor when needed. As the system and the players around him develop, the young Greek star is taking her game to new levels. Thursday night scored 24 points in 26 minutes, and continues to feel more comfortable on the floor. It remains to be seen if the Bucks can challenge the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics for the Eastern Conference supremacy this season, but as long as Antetokounmpo will continue to grow in the Budenholzer system, they will always have a chance to fight.
"Change a little", said Antetokounmpo, gaining more respect. "Day by day, we just have to keep playing better, that's all and we have to take it every night, because in the end, that's all – winning".
Kevin Durant leads to the circle, but Giannis Antetokounmpo comes out of nowhere to deny the layup attempt.
The Thursday night performance offered another reminder for the rest of the championship about the danger of the Bucks when all their players shoot in the same direction. It was the Bucks who closed the winning streak of 24 Golden State victories to start the 2015-16 season at the Bradley Center. On Thursday the Bucks knocked out the Warriors on their own plane, taking the lead for the best points differential simultaneously.
Middleton, in his sixth season with the Bucks, feels that things are different this time.
"People took it like a fluke," said Middleton of the 2015 victory against the Warriors. "But now, we feel like we're one of the best teams out there – we did one in Portland, but we still believe we're one of the best teams out there so you go out there and take the field and try to win on the road in difficult situations, we are down, we are going to fight to get back ".