OAKLAND, California – Stephen Curry called his shots far before he set foot on the Oracle Arena floor Thursday night. Before losing 134-111 deflating to the Milwaukee Bucks, one that Curry left early due to the left adductor strain, he spent some time post-practice Wednesday afternoon discussing the state of the new Bucks – a team that had received league attention during the first few weeks of the season.
"I thought [their situation] very similar to four years ago here, "Curry explained." Change of scenery sometimes helps. You get a little energy boost, a slight shift in focus and perspective, and that small difference can unlock something. This is still the beginning. They take care of business as they should. It's important when you have a lot of potential to start with a good start, but the season will change as it should. "
Curry, the NBA MVP twice, knows from experience how many training changes and some list changes can be made for young teams on the rise. Four years ago, Steve Kerr was tapped to replace Mark Jackson as head coach of the Golden State Warriors, reconstructing what would be one of the league's most productive violations in the process.
This summer, the Bucks knocked Mike Budenholzer to replace interim head coach Joe Prunty, who replaced Jason Kidd in the middle of last season. Budenholzer, like Kerr, was brought in to make a Bucks offense to get up and go to a different beat from Prunty or Kidd can.
Point guard Stephen Curry was scheduled to undergo MRI on Friday after leaving Thursday's losses with the adductor strain on his left leg.
The Greek Freak opened a new building in Milwaukee and stated that the Bucks were ready to go up in the East.
While the Bucks were cautious about the optimism that arrived at the start of the 9-2, the fact that they had just entered the home of defending champions and got rid of them brought about a wave of excitement the team sought when general manager Jon Horst made new coach Budenholzer last month.
"I think the team began to pay attention and realize we are not the Bucks that we were when I first arrived here six years ago," said the small Bucks ahead of Khris Middleton. "We are a totally different team from last year."
The Bucks are a different team because they have a different mindset in the Budenholzer system. They believe where they should be on the floor and believe that the ball will find an open man. The conviction was full on Thursday as the Bucks began to open looking up and down against the big and bad Warriors (though without defensive defensive power Draymond Green) and play fearlessly in the framework of the offensive renaissance they invest.
Some players give credit for Budenholzer's game plans, while veteran Eric Bledsoe notes that the transition is the biggest key for the group.
"I think we really bought it," Bledsoe said. "We have a lot of assists. Last year, we probably couldn't have 20 assists in one match, so we might have averaged 20 assists in one game at the moment – so that was very big for us."
Eric Bledsoe passed Stephen Curry and committed a foul before sinking a buoy, sending Curry to the bench.
To put in perspective how dominant the Bucks performance is in Oakland, consider that Milwaukee beat the Warriors 84-34 in paint. That's the worst difference between Golden State in the Kerr era, according to research by ESPN Stats and Information. The 134 points awarded by the Warriors are the second most allowed by Kerr-controlled teams – and the most scoring opponents at Oracle Arena in non-overtime matches since the Phoenix Suns dropped 154 to the Warriors in 2009.
"It's very big," said Bucks shooting guard Malcolm Brogdon about the victory. "It's very big for our confidence. I think it sends messages around the league, but anyway, I think we have to keep playing hard every night and play at both ends."
But how have things changed so much for groups that have many of the same key parts with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Middleton? In addition to the veteran contributions from Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova, the difference is that the Bucks shoot 3-numbers at a much higher level than under the Kidd regime. They are 44.0 percent of the 3-point frequency this season only taking the Houston Rockets at 47.5 percent.
"I guess that surprised people," Brogdon admitted. "Bud allows us to shoot them with confidence, so we make more and that adds 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|
|* Join the Bucks this season|
Is that the biggest difference between this year's group and last year's version?
"I would not say that is the biggest difference," Brogdon said. "I would say we have a lot of structure now. We have several sets that we can enter, we have – more ground to play than just freestyle."
The ease enjoyed by the Bucks in the Budenholzer system is evident in the way they play. There was excitement, free flowing nature in a group on the floor that wasn't there last season. They believe in themselves, and they believe that the Budenholzer system is running. While Kidd's name was never mentioned, it's not difficult to read between the lines and know the Bucks enjoy a new start that comes with a new main voice.
"We're trying to fix the night, out at night," Lopez said. "We will hopefully be a better team in April and May than now. We are really very good tonight, and we want to continue like that, especially in self-defense."
On top of adjustments for Budenholzer, the Bucks also have Antetokounmpo to lead on the floor if needed. As the system and players around it develop, this Greek starlet takes the game to new heights. He scored 24 points in 26 minutes on Thursday night, and he continued to feel more comfortable on the floor. It remains to be seen whether the Bucks can be challenging The Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics for Eastern supremacy this season, but as long as Antetokounmpo continues to grow in the Budenholzer system, they will always have the opportunity to fight.
"This changes a little," Antetokounmpo said to get more respect. "Day after 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 everything – win."
Kevin Durant drives into the ring, but Giannis Antetokounmpo comes out of nowhere to deny an attempt to layup.
Thursday's performance offers another reminder for the rest of the league about how dangerous the bucks can be when all their players shoot in the same direction. It was the Bucks that ended Golden State's 24-match winning streak to start the 2015-16 season at the Bradley Center. On Thursday, it was the Bucks who defeated the Warriors on their own floor, simultaneously leading to the best point differential.
Middleton, in the sixth season with the Bucks, felt something different this time.
"People think of it as a coincidence," Middleton said of the 2015 victory against the Warriors. "But now, we feel like we are one of the best teams out there. We dropped one in Portland, but we still believe we are one of the best teams out there. So go there and take the trial and try to win on the road in situations. it's difficult. We go down, we will fight to return. "