Coach demands bang for the Bucks

SAN FRANCISCO • The Milwaukee Bucks already own the best record, 33-6, in the National Basketball Association but coach Mike Budenholzer wants far more than what he has seen in the past two games.

More baskets. More pace. More energy. Better ball movement, too.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had a game-high 30 points and a league-leading 32nd double-double as the Bucks held off the Golden State Warriors 107-98 on Wednesday.

"Sometimes, you've got to find a way to win kind of the ugly games, and I'm proud of the group for doing that," Budenholzer said.

"We made just enough plays."

Khris Middleton added 21 points as the visitors bounced back after seeing a five-game winning streak come to an end in a 126-104 loss at the San Antonio Spurs on Monday.

Alec Burks paced the Warriors with 19 points as the hosts lost their sixth straight game and third in a row at home. The 2017 and 2018 champions have gone from being the NBA finalists last season to being the worst Western Conference team with a 9-30 record.

Their coach Steve Kerr had a game plan to intentionally foul Antetokounmpo, who is shooting 61.8 per cent from the free-throw line. It is the first time this season it has been employed against the Most Valuable Player of the year and it failed to work as he sank four straight free throws in the final minute to seal the win.

On the "hack-a-Giannis" strategy, Budenholzer warned teams to come up with something better to stop his star player, telling the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "The more he goes to the line, the better.

"He's just going to keep building his confidence, get more reps, pressure, feel that."

The Bucks, who were playing for the first time at the Warriors' new Chase Centre home, also overcame a cold shooting performance of 40.2 per cent for their third straight win at Golden State, leading Kerr to hail them as the best in the league.

"Our pace was not great in the first half and it picked up in the second," he said. "I thought we were a little tentative in the first half. They're a great team, obviously... the best defence in the league.

"We are just like the drunken sailor with 50 bucks left in his pocket, we are going to spend it until it runs out and figure it out from there."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 10, 2020, with the headline 'Coach demands bang for the Bucks'. Print Edition | Subscribe