MILWAUKEE — Once again, the Golden State Warriors will bring a winning streak into Milwaukee, where they’ll face the Bucks on Saturday night at the Bradley Center.
But unlike a year ago, when Golden State opened the season with 24 consecutive victories, it’s safe to assume Bucks ownership won’t be printing up celebratory t-shirts in the event of a Milwaukee victory.
No, this time, the Warriors’ streak sits at a modest five games following a 20-point victory Friday night in Boston — one fueled largely by a suffocating defense.
“We’re flying around, helping each other, getting our hand on basketballs, getting out on transition,” Kevin Durant said. “It was incredible to watch. We’ve got to continue to build on that.”
Bucks fans will see a familiar face in the blue and yellow; Warriors center Zaza Pachulia spent three seasons with the Bucks and was a key contributor when Milwaukee stormed into the playoffs in Jason Kidd’s first season at the helm.
“I (follow the Bucks), because I was there for two years,” Pachulia told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I built really great relationships with the players.”
Kevin Durant was Golden State’s high-profile acquisition during the offseason but Pachulia, a 14-year veteran still chasing his first championship, has been a welcome addition to a team trying to make a third consecutive trip to the Finals.
“We’re so happy to have him,” head coach Steve Kerr said. “He could’ve gone elsewhere and made more money, but he’s smart, he’s tough. … He’s exactly what we’ve needed.”
Pachulia’s former team has been struggling.
Milwaukee has lost two in a row and four of its last five contests and comes into the game looking to bounce back after a pair of ugly defeats at Atlanta and Miami earlier this week.
The Bucks scored just 25 second-half points against the Heat, their lowest point total of the season.
“We took turns with one guy just literally trying to drive the ball,” Kidd said. “It’s a great example for our young team to understand you can get in foul trouble and still have an impact on the game. (Hassan Whiteside) did a really good job of controlling the paint, protecting the rim.”
One of the few bright spots for the Bucks during this stretch has been the play of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker. Antetokounmpo is averaging career highs in points (21.1), rebounds (8.7), assists (5.4), blocks (2.2) and steals (1.7) per game and is the only player in the NBA averaging over 20.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.5 steals per game.
Parker is averaging 20.8 points in eight games this month and is shooting 45 percent from the floor this season.
But the Bucks will need more — much more — help from the rest of the roster if they hope to knock off the Warriors like they did a year ago.
“We’ve got to look at it and find a way to get better,” Kidd said. “We’ve got to start trusting one another and not panic.
“Just remember it’s a team sport and not one guy can do it by himself.”