Bucks

24-1: Bucks-Warriors Revisited, 5 Decembers Later

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As Bucks fans, we may say we don’t need more gifts after Giannis’s supermax extension.

But let’s be realistic– sports fans are greedy. We want a title for a town that hasn’t had a winner since 1971. With the Warriors arriving in town on Christmas (although sadly with no fans), a triumph over a declined titan would be another pleasant box. Hard to believe, but it was five years ago that the Bucks won arguably their most crucial regular-season game. Since then, one franchise has rocketed, and the other has leaked fuel. How did that wonderous night unfold?

A Promising Evening

The Bucks, under now-hated coach Jason Kidd, experienced significant improvement in 2014-2015 but regressed. However, the road to success is never a straight line. With the city council recently approving a new arena, Bucks fans (granted, not as numerous as today) happily bided time for the upcoming palace.

On Friday, December 11th, Milwaukee dropped a contest in Toronto that frustrated both teams. The same night, the Dubs, entering the night 23-0, survived a double-overtime freight in Boston. Saturday’s match in Milwaukee was the finale of a seven-game road trip. The Warriors, pushing for 73 wins (now a virtually unbeatable NBA record), couldn’t afford too many off nights. Still, even the mightiest teams blink sometimes.

It’s easy to lose perspective when watching an old highlight reel.

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Consider, though, how much hype followed this Warriors franchise. In the second year of their dominance, the Dubs still lived in a honeymoon phase. Scribes everywhere gawked over the sharpshooters, leaving smaller cities exasperated. The 2015-2016 Bucks, who had also defeated Cleveland, played inconsistently. However, only the zaniest, most biased journalist could deny their potential behind Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. Surprisingly, though it was OJ Mayo who assisted early.

Research indicates that fan noise doesn’t boost player performance. This reporter, though, can’t help but have skepticism towards those findings. Even going back to the dinky Bradley Center, Bucks fans always seem to give their idols a significant boost. The Warriors, meanwhile, finally tired after the wearying road odyssey. Milwaukee led 59-48 at halftime, and the warm December night (it was an El Niño winter) waited to embrace a small but growing group of loyalists.

Closeout

Going into the fourth, Golden State cut the deficit to three. No worries, though. Phil Jackson wrote (and the data backs him up) that it takes energy to make a run. Eventually, the team that initially had a more sizable lead will make a counter-push. Michael Carter-Williams made a jumper, then completed a three-point play. Greg Monroe (the pre-Mike Moustakas Moooose) sandwiched deuces around a Festus Ezili dunk.

Then, Johnny O’Bryant (now there’s fun nostalgia!) made a shot to push the lead to 91-79. Let the record show: whatever his shortcomings, Carter-Williams recorded the game’s last Bucks bucket before a meaningless Leonardo Barbosa dunk. Steph Curry, meanwhile, could only watch.

The Bucks ended the contest in the most triumphant manner possible: taking a purposeful shot-clock violation.

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Now, Warriors fans will be quick to say, “Yeah, well, we won 73 games.” Don’t let them take a good season out of context, though. Consider the whole picture.

Decline And Advance

The Warriors blew a 3-1 lead to Cleveland, of course, but Kevin Durant secured another two titles. Father time’s streak, however, is much more extended than any NBA stretch. Durant’s and Klay Thompson’s injuries ruined the Warriors’ chances of a three-peat, and a most unfortunate Klay re-injury deflated expectations for 2021.

The Bucks could never secure every attention-detail under Kidd, but under Mike Budenholzer, Giannis is nearing his talent ceiling (if there is one). Let’s not get too arrogant over the Dubs, though. They’ll still be a dangerous team and would love to strike a blow against our surging basketball community. Steph, AKA Mr. You Know, has had his excitement edge dulled with many successes. However, he will still be ready for the Elfday opportunity.

Meanwhile, it seemed many overthought Giannis’s motivations. The two-time MVP richly rewarded a now-passionate following with a stroke of a pen. He committed to his new American home and is willing to share five more years of his young life with us.

https://twitter.com/Giannis_An34/status/1338912608662003715

Yes, let’s make year eight count! While the season technically starts in Boston, the most important measuring stick will arrive at 1:30 PM central on a silent night in the Forum. This season, fans will have to watch from afar, at least to start. No matter where we see our heroes, though, their progress over the last five Decembers couldn’t be easier to appreciate.

Follow us on Twitter @BucksLead for the latest Bucks news and insight. 

About Jeffrey Newholm

"Jammin Jeff" Newholm had been a basketball fanatic since his high school days, and remained a casual fan as a student in Whitewater. Wishing to check in as an active participant, he also completed a writing certificate program at UWM. He loves seeing Bucks games more than any other activity in hometown Milwaukee and especially screaming really really loudly to get someone to miss a free throw. Twitter: @JeffreyNewholm

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