Programming note: Bucks-Warriors coverage starts tonight at 7:00 p.m. with Warriors Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, and streaming live right here.
After 11 days on the road, the Warriors return to the cozy confines of Oracle Arena hoping to establish momentum over the final six weeks of the season.
The sprint to the playoffs begins Wednesday night against the Milwaukee Bucks, in the first meeting this season between the teams.
Though the Warriors (46-12) no longer own the NBA's best overall record, their 24-2 home record remains tops in the league. And 15 of their final 24 games are at home, with the surprising Bucks (32-28) as the first opponent.
After posting a league-worst 15-67 record last season, the Bucks have recovered nicely under coach Jason Kidd, the Bay Area native who last summer left the Brooklyn Nets to take the job in Milwaukee and finds himself in the Coach of the Year conversation.
Warriors by 12.5
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Harrison Barnes vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo -- The Greek Freak is one of the league's most promising players, getting better by the game. He's long (6-foot-11) and athletic but, at age 20, still seeking consistency. Barnes is nearly as good an athlete, and nearly as inconsistent. Should be interesting.
Klay Thompson vs. Khris Middleton -- Middleton is one of the unsung players in the NBA. He's active and productive – yet still under the radar of many. Know this: He ranks sixth in real plus-minus. All five guys ahead of him are in the MVP discussion. Thompson will have his hands full.
Stephen Curry vs. Michael Carter-Williams -- MCW made his Bucks debut last week and is still feeling his way through his new team. His height (6-7) makes him mismatch but is offset by mediocre shooting. Curry will try to run him all over the floor. MCW played 33 minutes Tuesday at Denver. Will he be affected?
KEYS TO VICTORY
1) Ride the wave -- Returning to Oracle after a long absence usually means lots of energy in the room. That can work in the Warriors' favor against the young Bucks.
2) Attack the rack -- The Bucks uses perimeter length to play terrific defense, holding opponents to 41.3 percent shooting overall, 31.1 from deep. But Larry Sanders no longer is there to protect the rim.
3) Beat the bench -- After spending much of this season as the highest-scoring bench in the league, the Bucks have cooled a bit. The Warriors have the weapons to outplay them. Will they?
Warriors 7-3, Bucks 5-5.
Warriors: G Leandro Barbosa (upper respiratory viral infection) is listed as questionable.
Bucks: G O.J. Mayo (right hamstring strain) did not play Tuesday night at Denver and is listed as questionable. F Jabari Parker (left knee surgery) and F Damien Inglis (right ankle surgery) are listed as out.
C Ognjen Kuzmic and F James Michael McAdoo are on assignment with the D-League Santa Cruz Warriors.
The Warriors last season swept two games against the Bucks but previously had lost seven of eight meetings.