The Milwaukee Bucks would love to have Giannis Antetokounmpo back from a two-game absence while the Golden State Warriors hope the home court cures their recent ills when the two heavyweights duel Saturday night in San Francisco.
As they embark on a three-game Western swing, the Bucks have won three in a row, including two straight over the Orlando Magic and Brooklyn Nets with Antetokounmpo sidelined by a sore right hand.
California native and Stanford alum Brook Lopez has come up big in Antetokounmpo’s void the last two games, pouring in 26 points against the Magic before stuffing the stat sheet with 24 points, 10 rebounds and an NBA-season-high nine blocks against the Nets.
The 34-year-old noted after the Brooklyn game that he doesn’t always understand why teams would want to attack the Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
“I guess I’m not gonna question it, right?” Lopez shrugged. “If someone’s gonna come at the rim, I’m gonna try to be there to stop them from putting the ball in the basket. That’s exactly what I try to do out there. That’s the best way I can describe it.”
Lopez had a pair of blocks to go with seven points and seven rebounds in Milwaukee’s 128-111 home win over the Warriors in the clubs’ only previous meeting this season.
Antetokounmpo, who remains questionable for Saturday’s rematch, paced the Bucks with 30 points, but shot just 9-for-26 overall and 1-for-6 on 3-pointers in his 11th career head-to-head with fellow defensive stalwart Draymond Green.
It wasn’t the first time the two-time MVP has struggled against Green. Antetokounmpo has averaged just 19.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in those games, shooting 47 percent overall and 21 percent on 3-pointers.
Green, who has battled his rival almost to a standstill on the boards in those games (7.5-7.1), has gotten the better of Antetokounmpo in assists (5.9-4.5) and steals (1.5-1.3) in leading Golden State to seven wins in the 11 contests.
Green had 16 points in a head-to-head with Jaren Jackson Jr. in Golden State’s 131-110 loss at Memphis on Thursday, the club’s eighth straight road defeat.
However, Golden State has won five in a row at home, all coming on their most recent homestand when they rallied from behind five straight times to beat the Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Clippers and New Orleans Pelicans.
While they should be comforted in returning to the site of 27 wins in 34 games, the Warriors likely will do so once again without Andrew Wiggins, who has missed 10 straight games while tending to personal matters, and Gary Payton II, who has sat out 12 in a row because of abdominal issues.
Jonathan Kuminga joined them on the sidelines in Memphis after spraining his right ankle in warmups, and also is unlikely to go Saturday.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr felt Kuminga’s defensive energy was missed against the Grizzlies.
“I thought there were plays right away where we didn’t get into the ball (en route to falling behind by 20 points in the first quarter),” Kerr observed. “We were really soft on the ball and not being the aggressor.”
–Field Level Media