MILWAUKEE – The two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors came to Fiserv Forum on Saturday, seeking redemption for their loss to Milwaukee earlier in the season. A sellout crowd of 17,341 was on hand, with a playoffs-like atmosphere reverberating through the Forum at tip off.
The battle between the league’s top two offenses strangely morphed into a sloppy half-court battle however, with the Warriors coming out on top 105-95.
The 95 points was by far the Bucks lowest scoring total of the season, falling well short of the 103 points they scored at Portland last month. Milwaukee particularly struggled from beyond the arc, where they were left to lament a 7-for-39 mark, that 17.9 percent shooting from deep was also a season low.
While the Warriors' defence clearly deserved credit, an unusual pre-game, a multi-player trade that was announced just hours before the game, could have also pointed to some distracted minds on the Milwaukee side.
Australian guard Matthew Dellavedova and the Bucks longest tenured player in John Henson were traded to Cleveland, in a deal that brought veteran guard George Hill to the Bucks, while ensuring significant cap flexibility moving forward.
A number of picks were also exchanged in the deal, as well as Sam Dekker heading to Washington, and big man Jason Smith heading to Milwaukee.
Dellavedova and Henson have been leaders in the locker room for a lengthy period of time, and Bucks coach Budenholzer spoke about the influence they’ve had in his short time in Milwaukee.
“Lot of respect for Delly and John Henson for what they’ve done, really for me since I personally got the job,” Budenholzer said. “Leadership, and play and work, great leaders, great people, so it’s not easy to have to wish them well and wish them good luck moving forward.”
The Pick and Roll caught up with Thon Maker post-game, who discussed the late timing of the trade and the effect it could have on the team.
“Sometimes it can,” Maker admitted.
“You come into the locker room and there’s certain guys who keep the locker room together, certain guys that keep the energy positive and those two guys that got traded are those type of guys. This is a business, you have to try and find a way to put it aside.”
Bucks superstar, Giannis Antetokounmpo echoed those thoughts, describing Dellavedova as "one of the best teammates I've ever had."
It’s unclear whether losing the two popular team members had an effect, but Maker knows one thing, he’s going to miss having his Boomers teammate around on a daily basis.
“It’s tough, I’m definitely going to miss Delly. He’s a very, very positive guy both on and off the court. He’s always smiling, both him and John, they were just so positive no matter how things were going.”
Though court-time has been limited for Dellavedova so far this season, Maker was effusive in his praise for the impact he’s still been able to have on this Bucks team.
“Delly’s that vet, where if things aren’t going well in the game he’ll come out and say the right things that we need to do, that’s what he did, he just says the right thing. Delly’s a leader, luckily, I’ll be playing with him on the national team but I’m going to miss him around here. It’s tough.”
In a unique twist, Milwaukee and Cleveland square off twice in the coming week, with Dellavedova’s return game with the Cavaliers likely to be in Milwaukee on Tuesday morning. Maker smiled and shook his head when asked how it will feel to see his countryman in another uniform.
“I can’t picture it, but it’s the league, you just have to find a way to stay focused. We’re all friends off the court, but it will be different.”
Dellavedova wasn't present at Fiserv Forum, but Maker said he’d spoke to the point guard, who had some words of encouragement moving forward.
“He just wished us well and let us know we have something special in Milwaukee, so continue to work. I told him I’ll see him around, I hear this a lot in the NBA, you never say goodbye, you say see ya later. A good friend once told me that and it’s great advice.”
“Hopefully he gets a chance over there, and that’s home for him as well so they’ll take care of him.”
Trade aside, it was a forgettable performance from Milwaukee that sent the fans heading for the exits with three minutes left on the clock – a rare sight at home this season.
They now head north of the border for a Monday morning contest against the Toronto Raptors, holders of first place in the Eastern Conference.
The Milwaukee Bucks meet the Toronto Raptors on Monday morning. Tip-off is at 10:00am (AEST).