3:06 AM ET

Malika AndrewsESPN

MILWAUKEE — When two established contenders square off early in the regular season, it’s a virtual guarantee that both teams will downplay the magnitude of the meeting. But the Milwaukee Bucks, still fighting to stake their claim as one of the NBA’s best teams after a first-round playoff exit last season, openly admitted that Friday night’s showdown with the Golden State Warriors carried extra significance.

The Bucks viewed the game against the Warriors as the first part of a test that will continue against the Toronto Raptors, another aspiring contender, on Sunday. Friday was a measuring stick for how well Mike Budenholzer’s high-powered system — which rocketed Milwaukee to the NBA’s No. 1 offensive efficiency ranking heading into the game — could hold up against the back-to-back NBA champions.

“I do like the word test,” Budenholzer said before the game. “Golden State has established themselves as one of the best teams in our league. A great run that they’re on for the last three, four, five years. Anytime you play the best team in the league, they test you on both ends.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks split the season

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