Young Bucks hope to build on big win over streaking Warriors
ST. FRANCIS, Wis. (AP) — The Milwaukee Bucks have struggled to find traction early in a season in which they’re hoping to return to the playoffs.
Their 108-95 victory on Saturday over Golden State, which snapped the Warriors’ record 24-game winning streak to start a season, could be the spark Milwaukee needs to climb in the Eastern Conference standings.
“We just needed a win, period,” center Greg Monroe said Monday. “We understand how they were playing coming in, but it is more about us right now. It doesn’t matter who the opponent is right now. We need wins.”
Milwaukee (10-15) begins a four-game West Coast trip Tuesday against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Although the Bucks are 4-4 in their last eight games, coach Jason Kidd thinks a lot of good things have been happening with his team over the past two weeks. The biggest improvement has come on the defensive end.
Milwaukee was one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA over the first month of the season, allowing 109.5 points per 100 possessions. In their last nine games, the Bucks have held opponents to 96.1 points per 100 possessions.
“I think we came out this season thinking we were going to be offensive-minded,” guard O.J. Mayo said after practice at the team’s training facility. “That’s not this team’s identity.”
In coaching one of the youngest teams in the NBA, Kidd isn’t surprised his players are focused on offense.
“It happens,” Kidd said. “We feel like we have weapons offensively to outscore guys, but you have to get stops, too. Being young, we have to understand defense has to come first.”
The improved defensive play coincided with Kidd’s decision to swap Mayo into the starting lineup at point guard for Michael Carter-Williams.
Both players have responded to the role change, with Mayo averaging 12.1 points and 3.7 assists in nine starts and Carter-Williams playing his best basketball of the season off the bench.
Milwaukee has held seven of its last nine opponents under 100 points, including becoming the first team this season to prevent Golden State from reaching triple digits.
After the Lakers game, the Bucks will stay in Los Angeles to face the Clippers on Wednesday. They will head to Golden State for a rematch with the Warriors on Friday before concluding the trip in Phoenix on Sunday.
“We have this road trip and another at the end of the month. We have to come together. Coming together means playing together on the floor,” Kidd said. “These guys are starting to do that.”
NOTES: PGs Jerryd Bayless and Greivis Vasquez will not accompany the Bucks on the West Coast trip. Bayless has missed five straight games and six of Milwaukee’s last seven with a left ankle sprain. Vasquez has sat out nine games due to right ankle soreness.