It couldn’t have been more emblematic.
In the Golden State Warriors’ 109-102 road loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night, it came down to the final moments and the ball in the hands of former Warriors star, Monta Ellis.
The Bucks led by two points and Ellis was dribbling atop the arc. Guarding Ellis, fittingly for such a stage, was Stephen Curry, the scorer that Golden State opted to keep when they traded Ellis to the Bucks last March.
Ellis, in a dribble rhythm that sagged Curry off just enough, struck a three-pointer with 32 seconds remaining to cement the Bucks’ victory.
“One thing about me, I’m going to make shots and I still have the confidence to knock the shot down,” Ellis said in an on-court interview after the game. “That’s my time of the game and I like those shots. I just concentrated and knocked it down.”
With two minutes remaining, Ellis had connected on a perimeter jumper to push Milwaukee to a 100-93 lead. But Klay Thompson answered with an 18-foot jumper followed by a three-pointer from Jarrett Jack with 52.9 seconds remaining to bring the Warriors within 100-98.
When a reporter asked postgame about the crucial three-pointer from Ellis, Warriors head coach Mark Jackson replied with a short, stern answer defending his guy, Curry.
Curry did score 26 points, more than Ellis’s 20 points, but the second-half scoring of Milwaukee was too much for Golden State. Curry only had six points in the second half.
The Warriors led 55-51 at halftime, led by 20 first-half points by Curry. Golden State’s backcourt outscored Milwaukee’s guards 32-7 through the first two quarters. In the first half, Ellis shot 3-for-11 for seven points and Brandon Jennings was scoreless.
Then Jennings woke up and scored 18 points in the third quarter as part of a 35-19 frame for the Bucks. Both Jennings and Ellis finished with 20 points each.
Ersan Ilyasova, who tallied 57 points and 23 rebounds in his two games prior to Saturday, shot just 3-for-11 for six first-half points. He finished the night with 18 points on 7-for-17 shooting.
The Warriors defense limited the Bucks to just 37.5 percent through the first two quarters but Milwaukee finished the game at 40.6 percent.
Klay Thompson finished with 19 points, but the second-year player shot just 3-for-11 from three-point range.
Lost the battle inside
The Bucks outscored the Warriors 27-13 in second-chance points. Milwaukee totaled 22 offensive rebounds and won the battle on the glass, 58-50.
“We climbed back and we showed some fight but it takes so much out of you when you have to defend 48 seconds instead of 24 seconds,” Jackson said. “Too many second-chance points and it really hurt us and caught us the ballgame.”
Warriors rookie center Festus Ezeli had no points and just two rebounds in 10 minutes. Biedrins played 13 minutes and had no points but six rebounds.
“We’ve got to get back to who we are,” Jackson said. “We’re not rebounding at the same level and it’s hurting us. It’s costing us ball games. We’ve got to find a way to get it back.”
Carl Landry led the Warriors with 14 rebounds and added 13 points.
It gets easier
The good news is at least the Warriors can breathe a bit now.
The Warriors’ challenging stretch to begin January finally ends 26 days into the year. The Warriors opened 2013 with 11 of 12 opponents with records of .500 or better. The only sub-.500 team they faced were the New Orleans Hornets, who had won five of their previous six games prior to that meeting.
Golden State beat New Orleans, which was one of just five wins during the 12-game stretch. The other victories included home wins against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers, and two against the Los Angeles Clippers.
After dropping the first two games of this four-game road trip, at the Chicago Bulls on Friday and on Saturday in Milwaukee, the Warriors will finish the Toronto Raptors (16-28) on Monday and the Cleveland Cavaliers (13-32) on Tuesday. The Cavaliers have won three consecutive games.
The Warriors then return home to face two more sub-.500 teams, the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns.
Warriors rookie Harrison Barnes raised up with an emphatic, one-armed dunk in the first quarter.
Barnes received the ball from the baseline wing right of the basket, took dribbles with his left hand before exploding outside the restricted area with an emphatic, right-hand slam over Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova.
Milestone for Curry
Curry's first of his five three-pointers came in the first quarter in Milwaukee and was his 500th career three-pointer. He’s only the fifth player in franchise history to reach that mark.