MILWAUKEE — Last night’s loss in Cleveland resonated throughout the Milwaukee Bucks locker room.
It hurt. It stung.
Saturday night, the Bucks played like the defeat made them angry. Energized and outworking the Warriors, Milwaukee used a big third quarter to grab a 109-102 victory over a good Golden State team, moving again to a season-high four games over .500.
“I think everybody felt (the loss last night),” Bucks center Larry Sanders said. “I think we played with a chip on our shoulder and it worked in our favor.”
From the opening tip, the Bucks dominated Golden State on the offensive glass. Despite struggling to make shots in the first half, Milwaukee stayed close on effort plays and offensive rebounds. The Bucks had 14 offensive rebounds in the first half and outscored the Warriors, 20-6, in the paint.
The trend continued in the second half, as Milwaukee finished with 22 offensive rebounds and a season-high 101 shot attempts.
“That was the emphasis,” Sanders said. “Second effort, third effort, staying around that basket and attacking it and playing physical.”
Back-to-backs have previously not been kind to the Bucks this season. Milwaukee has lacked energy and often suffered from dead legs.
With both the Warriors and Bucks playing back-to-backs and both coming off tough losses, whichever team played the hardest probably was going to win. This time around, the Bucks won that battle.
“I told our guys during the timeouts in the third quarter that we’re playing harder than they are,” Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. “We’re just playing harder. That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing.
“It was great to see, especially after the way we played last night. It was pretty much a non-defense game last night.”
The Warriors echoed effort was a big factor.
“We just didn’t think we had the effort tonight for 48 minutes to come in here and get a win on the road,” Warriors guard Jarrett Jack said. “Regardless, if we don’t put forth that effort for 48 minutes, we aren’t going to be anybody.”
Knowing how important Saturday’s game was, Boylan mixed and matched different lineup combinations. Needing a more physical presence inside, Milwaukee’s rookie coach turned to little-used Samuel Dalembert for 18 minutes. With the Warriors in a zone defense and Milwaukee needing another ballhandler on the court, Boylan went to a three-guard lineup with Beno Udrih on the floor with Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis.
“I wanted to keep Mike (Dunleavy) out there, but I felt with Beno we had a little bit better matchup,” Boylan said. “Another guy who can penetrate. Beno has been playing great for us. It’s kind of unfair. I should be getting him more time, but you only have so many minutes out there. He’s been a solid contributor all year long.”
Now Milwaukee is at the dreaded four games over .500 mark again. All three previous times the Bucks have reached that mark, they suffered a bad loss the next game.
One of those losses came in Detroit. Tuesday night, the Bucks are back in Motown. It’s another chance to move to five games over but also a chance to fail to capitalize on a big win.