24 wins in a row is as impressive of a streak as you’ll ever see to start an NBA season, but the Warriors were close to a different, sneakily difficult record last night. Had they beaten the Milwaukee Bucks, they would have secured the first 7-0 road trip in history. That stat doesn’t leap off the page the same way that 25 wins or any of Curry’s gaudy numbers do, but going undefeated on a road trip that began back in November would have been truly impressive. They were the favorite in every one of the seven games, but fighting against the strain of the road for two weeks is really hard.
To get to the Bucks’ streakbuster, you have to start in Boston. The Celtics forced both Draymond Green and Steph Curry to play over 47 minutes, before they had to fly across a time zone and play less than 24 hours later. Curry got hounded by Avery Bradley most of the game, who hasn’t turned into the two way terror scouts thought he could but is still good for a few of the best defensive performances in a given year. The Warriors won, because no way is Kelly Olynyk going to end the greatest season-starting streak ever, but it taxed them. The difference about playing on the road, and it sounds like the ultimate no-shit truism, is that you don’t get to go home after a game like that. Sleeping in hotels and flying across regions takes it out of you, no matter historically great you are.
Anyway, about the game; the Warriors beat themselves just as much as the Bucks beat them. When a team’s won so many games in a row like that, it’s indicative of a process on both sides of the ball that’s recognizable but wholly unstoppable. The Warriors game has been the biggest game on most every team’s schedule this year so far, and despite all the film opponents have watched, the Warriors kind of kept playing the way they wanted and bulldozing opponents. Seeing that the Warriors run a lot of stuff out of the Green-Curry pick-and-roll doesn’t take you much closer to stopping it.
The specific set of plays out of that pick-and-roll combo are basketball murder. Either you leave Curry with a big man on him or you open yourself up to a 4-on-3 with Green, one of the best passing forwards in the game. None of the cascading set of choices at that point is appealing. The way the math works out, leaving Andre Igoudala and Harrison Barnes get a corner three is sort of your best bet unless you have one of the two or so big men in the game who can approximate an okay job singling up Curry. Fortunately for the Bucks, the Warriors had a historically bad shooting night. Barnes didn’t play, and Igoudala went 1/9. Aside from Green, the Warriors shot 36%.
On the other side, Michael Carter-Williams, himself a dreadful shooter, went 7/10 last night and had a +/- of 22 (which is usually a misleading stat that can’t correct for noise, but is, in this case, indicative of the type of game he had). Giannis Antetokounmpo had a triple double, seemed to be everywhere on both sides of the court, and held opponents to 33% shooting at the rim as a defender (a Reddit user points out that Antetokounmpo was actually miscredited for two extra assists). Greg Monroe, however, carried the most water for the Bucks offense. Monroe managed 28 points on, according to NBA.com, only 58 touches. 13 of his 16 shots were contested but he still shot 11/16. He was instrumental down the stretch, and he actually stretched the lead out from what was a three-point game heading into the fourth. For a team that struggles to consistently score in the halfcourt, Monroe was massive. Finding a lineup that can balance his abilities as a post scorer with his deficiencies as a defender would go a long way towards turning around the Bucks season.
The Warriors will be fine, and they’re still on pace to make history. They have more ways to win than anyone else in the league, and their chemistry is so tight that they certainly won’t get rattled. The Bucks didn’t leave much of a blueprint to stop the Warriors, because they’re never going to shoot that poorly again.
Photo via Getty