After two and a half quarters of keeping things close, the Milwaukee Bucks ended up blowing out the Golden State Warriors 138-99 in their Christmas Day matchup. The Bucks led by as much as 43 points in the fourth quarter, letting 3s rain from everywhere on the floor. Khris Middleton led the Bucks in their rout, finishing the game with 31 points, five assists, four rebounds and two steals in just three quarters of action. Reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo was slow out of the gates for Milwaukee, but still finished the game with 15 points and 13 rebounds.
While the final score reflected a one-sided contest, give credit to the Warriors for keeping things close for as long as possible. Golden State kept the Bucks within reach for majority of the game, on the strength of rookie James Wiseman and Stephen Curry. Wiseman looked like the best player on the floor for Golden State on multiple occasions, blocking shots, knocking down 3s and putting up a great effort on defense against Giannis. Curry had an incredibly inefficient game, but finished the night with 19 points in 28 minutes.
The Bucks now move to 1-1 on the season, while the Warriors remain winless in two blowout losses against some of the top teams in the East.
Here are three takeaways from the Bucks' win:
1. Merry Khris-mas, Milwaukee
If it weren't for Middleton's efficient performance today, the Bucks would've been in a dangerously close game against an inferior Warriors team. Everything was falling for the two-time All-Star today, and Milwaukee needed it as Giannis struggled to get into a consistent rhythm throughout the game. He was knocking down 3s, where he finished 6-of-8 on the afternoon, racking up assists, and came away with a pair of steals, both of which led to easy buckets either for him or for a teammate.
Middleton's performance is a prime example of what the Bucks can still do despite Antetokounmpo having an off day. Oftentimes an afterthought, Middleton showed that he can easily carry the offensive load when he's counted upon, and in an efficient matter no less. After a 27-point, 14-rebound and eight-assist performance in the opening loss to the Celtics, Middleton carried over his efficient game into this matchup, and exposed thee Warriors for their weak defense on him.
If this is a precursor of what to expect from Middleton this season, then Milwaukee can very well repeat as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
2. Stephen Curry is still knocking off the rust
Historically, Curry hasn't fared well in Christmas Day games over the course of his career. In his previous seven appearances before today's game, he averaged just 12.2 points, and shot an abysmal 29.5 percent from the field and an even worse 18.8 percent from 3-point range. The Warriors also haven't had much success on Christmas since Curry's been in the league, posting a 3-4 record prior to the loss today.
Unfortunately, Curry didn't break his Christmas Day "curse" against the Bucks today, finishing the game with 19 points, while shooting 20 percent from deep and 35.3 from the field. That 19 points is the highest he's ever scored on Christmas, which is well below the average of what we usually see from the sharpshooting, quick-release Curry. Granted, this is just the second game back for him after missing majority of last season due to a broken left hand, so it's evident that he's still working back into game shape.
Shots that would usually fall for him from beyond the arc were clanking off every part of the rim, and each miss became more deafening with the loud microphones the NBA has on the back of the rim. At one point, Curry even air-balled a 3-pointer, and it wasn't even close. The two-time MVP deserves a considerable amount of slack, not just for the fact that he hasn't played in an NBA game in 14 months, but also because the teammates surrounding him are considerably different than what he's used to. He doesn't have Klay Thompson out there flanking him on the wing, or Draymond Green -- for now -- to create chaos on both ends of the floor.
Curry's having to carry this rag-tag Warriors team on his back while working back from a significant hand injury, which surely has impacted his shooting. It was a tough outing for the 32-year-old superstar, but hopefully it's just him getting back into rhythm and not a lingering issue he deals with throughout this season. Otherwise, the Warriors are in for another long, dark season filled with many losses.
3. Another great showing for the rookie
If there was one silver lining for the Warriors in today's blowout loss, it was No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman's performance against the Bucks. In his first Christmas Day game, the 7-1 rookie center finished the afternoon with 18 points, eight rebounds and three blocks, while going 3-of-4 from deep. He also had typical rookie miscues, like careless fouls and missed defensive assignments, but he also did an admirable job while matched up against the reigning MVP.
After the game, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said that they would bump up Wiseman's minutes after two quality starts for the rookie. Although he isn't where he needs to be defensively, his offensive contribution in both games for the Warriors is evidence that he should be on the court more. Although Golden State is leaving Milwaukee with a loss, Wiseman's performance should be a bright spot knowing that so far they were right in picking him with the second pick in the draft.