MILWAUKEE — Steph Curry has noticed a pattern recently, and you probably have, too. The Warriors fall into a humongous hole in the first half, mount a furious comeback after the break, and come up just short.
Well, one of those things happened Thursday against the Milwaukee Bucks.
What was on pace to be the most lopsided loss in franchise history ended as only the worst defeat of the season, 118-99.
“To be honest, I’m not concerned,” coach Steve Kerr said afterward. “We’re just in a rough patch of our season. It happens to every team every year pretty much. We’re in a bit of a rut. … We just have to get back on track.”
The Warriors are limping into the season’s halfway point. At 30-11, they still hold the league’s second-best record but have lost four of their last five.
With all their success, the Warriors are almost always the recipients of their opponents’ best effort. Klay Thompson noted as much after the recent loss Thursday in Memphis. But with the coin flipped Thursday, facing the defending champions, the Warriors’ struggles only got worse.
The Warriors allowed their most points in a half this season (77) and narrowly avoided their worst 24 minutes of scoring, too, on an Otto Porter Jr. 3-pointer just before halftime.
“We just didn’t play with our normal identity,” said Kevon Looney, who scored seven points and grabbed seven rebounds in his a homecoming for the Milwaukee native. “We have games where we don’t make shots like tonight, but we’ve always relied on our defense.”
The 39-point halftime margin made for the Warriors’ largest deficit at intermission since the franchise moved to California in 1962-63. Things turned around slightly in the second half to avoid the worst defeat in franchise history, too.
A sign of the times: Thompson found himself wide open from beyond the arc early in the third quarter without a defender even closing in on him. He bricked the shot, the fifth in a string of seven straight misses by the sharpshooter. He finished 3-for-11 from the field (2-for-7 for 3) for 11 points in his third game back from a two-season absence. He won’t play Friday at Chicago in the second of back-to-back games.
Curry was limited to 12 points, tied with two other games for his second-lowest scoring total of the season.
Thompson’s return was supposed to inject some life into a troubled Warriors offense, but their problems scoring the ball have only been exacerbated since he joined the rotation.
Against the Bucks, the Warriors were held to 34.7% from the field, their fourth straight game shooting below 43% and their worst mark of the season. Only in the second half did their assists (20) begin to eclipse their turnovers (15).
“I think we’ve lost a little confidence as a group. You could see we had a lot of open shots that weren’t going and we were kind of hanging our heads and then they’re making everything,” Kerr said. “It was just one of those nights.”
While the Warriors reintegrate Thompson into the offense, Kerr said they would rely on the defensive identity they established during the first 40 games of the season. Entering Thursday, Golden State was the top-ranked defense in the NBA, by a number of metrics.
But without its most important chess piece – Draymond Green is home with a tight calf – Golden State was left floundering against Giannis Antetokounmpo, the two-time MVP, who can be an impossible task even for a team at full strength.
Antetokounmpo torched the Warriors for a triple double — 30 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists — one of three Milwaukee players with at least 20 points. The Bucks became the first team to shoot better than 50% from the field against the the Warriors this season.
The Warriors have held opponents below 100 points for an entire game 17 times this season, but the Bucks reached that mark on their first shot of the fourth quarter.
“Giannis was amazing. We were sending a lot of help and he was finding shooters,” Kerr said. “We weren’t well connected and we weren’t rotating really well. … It’s impossible to win a game and to get an offensive rhythm if you’re taking the ball out of the net every play.”