Milwaukee had the ball, and Tony Snell was inbounding from the sideline. He attempted to lob the ball to Giannis Antetokounmpo in the post, but Warriors forward Draymond Green reached over Antetokounmpo without fouling and tipped the ball away.
“I already knew what play they were running,” Green said. “They have two plays that they run in situations like that. Once Giannis was down on the block, I already knew what they were running, so I was just waiting on them to pass the ball in. I wanted to make it tough and make Tony Snell think about it. I knew once he thought about it that he would throw the lob pass. Then I just went after the ball.”
Klay Thompson recovered the ball. He was promptly fouled and sent to the line for two. He nailed both with eight seconds to go. That was the game.
“Any win is a good win, but especially on a back-to-back on a night where we didn’t quite have it,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Our opponent played an exceptional game. I thought Milwaukee was fantastic. We were able to pull it off.”
Durant exploded for 25 of his game-high 33 points in the first half, and Thompson's third-quarter shooting exhibition produced 18 of his 29 points.
Before the game, Stephen Curry sarcastically asked coach Steve Kerr if he thought Bucks fans would show up with "10-3" T-shirts for Saturday's game.
The Warriors apparently haven't forgotten. Last season, some Milwaukee fans sported "24-1" T-shirts for the game, and that somehow came to pass. The Bucks handed what ultimately became a 73-win Warriors team its first loss of the season and a 24-1 record.
Milwaukee (5-7) almost did it again Saturday.
“We’ve played in some tight games, but none down to the wire like this one,” Durant said. “It was a good test for us.”
In the early stages of the contest, the length and athleticism of the youthful Bucks gave the Warriors fits. Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker were a handful. The duo registered 30 and 28 points, respectively.
Milwaukee, having caught Golden State (11-2) on the back end of a back-to-back, initially looked like the team with more vigor and energy. The Bucks went on a 21-5 run to close the first quarter with a nine-point lead.
Durant kept the Warriors in it. Off of pick-and-roll action initiated by Curry, Green rolled and repeatedly found a wide-open Durant in the corner. Durant was laser-focused, and he went 5-for-5 from downtown in the first half to keep the Bucks from building a sizable advantage before the break.
At the time, Durant was the only Warrior clicking offensively. The rest of the starting lineup was a combined 9-for-26 from the field in the first half. Even so, the Warriors were ahead 69-66 at halftime.
Thompson took over in the third. He drilled four triples and gave his team a post presence that led to him shooting over the top of smaller defenders. Golden State began to separate itself with a 13-point lead heading into the fourth.
However, complacency set in. In the last 8:10 of the game, the Bucks outscored the Warriors 24-7. Milwaukee had multiple opportunities to tie the game, but the Warriors either got stops or were lucky. A late-game dunk attempt by Antetokounmpo on a fast break almost went down but surprisingly rimmed out. The Warriors dodged a bullet; that would have tied the game with 1:58 remaining.
Golden State survived despite Milwaukee's shooting 52 percent from the field. The Warriors dished out 30 assists on 42 converted field goals, which made this the seventh straight game in which they tallied 30 or more assists. Andre Iguodala contributed 10 points off the bench.
Curry scored 20 points but on poor 7-for-21 shooting and 1-for-11 shooting from beyond the arc. He is six for his past 30 from 3, but his teammates don’t seem overly concerned.
“He’s Steph Curry. He’s a superstar,” Durant said. “You can’t say anything to him. Just keep shooting. Every time he misses a shot, we’re not going to try to lift him up because his head is never down. He’s always encouraged. He always feels like he’s going to make the next one.”
Dub Nation almost suffered a major scare. Early in the third quarter, Durant took a fall and immediately reached for his left knee. He stayed down momentarily and walked slowly toward the bench. He was checked out by the training staff during a timeout but remained in the game.
“Just hope [he was] all right,” Curry said of his thoughts upon seeing Durant down. “I mean, guys get hurt all the time, but when anybody is slow to get up, you kind of worry.”
Durant said “I’m good” when asked how his knee was feeling.
“Don’t worry about me,” he told ESPN. “I’m a basketball player.”
Golden State has one game left on this four-game trip. The Indiana Pacers will play host to the Western Conference champs on Monday.