A month ago, the Milwaukee Bucks handed the Golden State Warriors one of their worst losses of the season, serving notice to the rest of the league that they are for real this season.
The Warriors will get a chance for payback for that 134-111 embarrassment when they visit Milwaukee on Friday for a nationally-televised showdown with the Bucks, who currently own the Eastern Conference's second-best record.
"Definitely they're going to come out and try to get revenge," said Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, who spent his 24th birthday Thursday preparing to face the two-time defending NBA campions. "It's going to be a tough game; hopefully, we can get it done."
Golden State was playing without Draymond Green in that contest, and he'll be out again Friday, missing his 11th straight game with a toe injury. But Stephen Curry, who missed most of the second half of that first meeting, will be back in the lineup and is averaging 33.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists while hitting 54.5 percent of his 3-point attempts since returning from that injury three games ago.
"He's coming in and is trying to pick up where he left off," Warriors forward Kevin Durant said. "We're trying to do our best to support that."
Curry scored 42 points with nine rebounds and seven assists Wednesday night in 129-105 victory at Cleveland, looking little like a player who had missed 11 games in a row.
"He keeps himself in amazing shape all season," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "That allows him to come back pretty quickly when there is an injury. He has a pretty good conditioning foundation."
The showdown kicks off a big weekend for the Bucks. They will travel to Toronto after the game in advance of a Sunday afternoon meeting with the Eastern Conference-leading Raptors, starting a back-to-back set that ends Monday at home against Cleveland.
"Everybody knows how good (the Warriors) are and how they test you and the same with Toronto," Milwaukee head coach Mike Budenholzer said. "I think those (tests) are great for a team. You learn from them, really win or lose, what it's going to take to play against the elite teams. I think our guys all look forward to that."
The Bucks have fared well against the league's top teams this season. They're 4-0 against the top three teams in the East after cruising to a victory over the Pistons Wednesday night, and they have a 3-1 mark against the West's top four squads.
But they may have to face the Warriors without Khris Middleton. The team's second-leading scorer was a late scratch against Detroit for what the team called "personal reasons" and no update was given Thursday.
Milwaukee is also expected to be without forward Ersan Ilyasova, who hasn't played since Milwaukee's victory over the Bulls last Wednesday when he was inadvertently hit in the back of the head by teammate Brook Lopez while going up for a rebound on the final play of the game.
Ilyasova has been in the league's concussion protocol ever since but said Wednesday night he was hoping to practice Thursday and return to action soon.