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Steph Curry scores 41 as Warriors rally to get much-needed win over Bucks

04

The corners of Steve Kerr’s smile could be seen from behind his facemask as he high-fived players walking off the Chase Center floor after the final buzzer.

Much of the appreciation was directed at Stephen Curry, who scored 41 points to lead the Warriors’ 12-point comeback to beat the Milwaukee Bucks, 122-121, Tuesday night and snap a three-game losing streak.

“We needed to win badly,” Kerr said. “I’m thrilled.”

With MVP-candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo a late scratch with a sore left knee, Golden State found itself with a chance to knock off one of the Eastern Conference’s elite teams and led by three at halftime.

SAN FRANCISCO – APRIL 6: Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo (34), right, speaks to an official during the fourth quarter of his teams teams game versus the Golden State Warriors at Chase Center in San Francisco on Tuesday, April, 6, 2021. The Warriors would win the game 122-121 over the Bucks. (Randy Vazquez/ Bay Area News Group) 

But from the start of the third quarter to the middle of the fourth, the Bucks outscored the Warriors 53-40 and took a double-digit lead. Nearly every time Golden State made a run, Milwaukee answered behind Jrue Holiday’s 29 points and Khris Middleton’s 28.

However, seeing that his team still had a chance to eke out a much-needed win, Curry asked to go back in the game with 8:09 left in the fourth quarter, about two minutes before the two-time MVP usually checks in. The Warriors scored six straight points in that extra allotment, which helped spur the game’s decisive run. Curry’s jumper punctuated a 16-3 rally that gave the Warriors a 122-119 lead with 36.3 seconds to go.

SAN FRANCISCO – APRIL 6: Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry (30) reacts after a play by one of his teammates during the second quarter of their game versus the Milwaukee Bucks at Chase Center in San Francisco on Tuesday, April, 6, 2021. (Randy Vazquez/ Bay Area News Group) 

“I just think his body, his mind, everything, it has really peaked this season,” Kerr said of Curry, who went 14-for-21, including 5-for-10 from 3-point range, while being guarded mostly by Holiday, a two-time All-Defensive team selection. “It’s really impressive.”

Then, Holiday’s tip-in with 29 seconds left gave Milwaukee the lead. With the losing streak weighing on the next possession, Curry got trapped by two Milwaukee defenders and passed to Andrew Wiggins (nine points on 4-of-15 shooting), who missed an open 3-pointer. The offensive rebound was recovered by Kelly Oubre Jr. (19 points on 6-of-14 shooting and six rebounds), who was fouled on the putback attempt. Oubre made both free throws to put the Warriors up by one with 7.7 seconds remaining. Middleton’s missed 3-pointer on the final possession put the final stamp on the much-needed win.

SAN FRANCISCO – APRIL 6: Milwaukee Bucks’ Khris Middleton (22), left, tries to shoot over Golden State Warriors’ Andrew Wiggins (22), right, for the game winning shot during the closing seconds of the fourth quarter of their game at Chase Center in San Francisco on Tuesday, April, 6, 2021. The Warriors would win the game 122-121 over the Bucks. (Randy Vazquez/ Bay Area News Group) 

This game was not defined just by Curry’s heroics (30 points in the second half), which have become commonplace this season, but also by progress. After sending the Atlanta Hawks to the line 45 times in Sunday’s frustrating loss, the Warriors (24-27) committed just 18 fouls — well below their season average.

Rookie center James Wiseman, who had a double-double in his first 15 minutes and finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds, was a big factor in Golden State’s early success and helped establish a 13-point lead in the first quarter. He ran the floor with purpose, fought for rebounds and soared for dunks after setting timely screens.

“He really played with energy, he sprinted into ball screens, he really dove hard to the rim to put pressure on the defense and rebounded well,” Kerr said. “So he gets an ‘A’ on the James Wiseman report card.”

SAN FRANCISCO – APRIL 6: Golden State Warriors’ James Wiseman (33) catches a pass for a dunk during the second quarter of his teams’ game versus the Milwaukee Bucks at Chase Center in San Francisco on Tuesday, April, 6, 2021. (Randy Vazquez/ Bay Area News Group) 

The Warriors also got 10 points and six assists from second-year guard Jordan Poole, while Kent Bazemore chipped in an important 18 points on 6-for-10 shooting off the bench.

Yes, Antetokounmpo’s absence was perhaps the biggest factor in the Warriors’ pulling out the win — the Bucks (32-18) missed the reigning two-time MVP’s 28.8 points, 11.4 rebounds and 6.2 assists. But the Warriors took advantage of their good fortune and are now set up to make a run with upcoming home games against the 17-32 Washington Wizards (Friday) and 13-37 Houston Rockets (Saturday). With a three-game losing streak snapped, a three-game win streak is within Golden State’s grasp.

“There’s some faint energy off in the distance about some really big things to come,” Bazemore said. “We’re really so close to just breaking it open.”

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