Following their ugly loss in New Orleans on Monday, the Bucks head to San Antonio looking to avoid falling under .500 for the first time this season. But it won't come easy with a rejuvenated Tim Duncan spearheading a terrific-as-usual Spurs team.
|2012/2013 NBA Season
| (14-4, 5-2 home)
|| (8-8, 4-4 road)
|December 5, 2012
|AT&T Center | San Antonio, TX
|FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ
|Manu Ginobili (?)
|2012/13 Advanced Stats
On the Spurs: Pounding the Rock | Project: Spurs | 48 Minutes of Hell
Update: The Bucks tweeted this afternoon that Larry Sanders will start for the first time this season, with John Henson moving to the bench.
The bad news is that the Bucks are coming off their most depressing loss of the season. The good news is that because the Bucks are, well, the Bucks, they're probably now more likely to beat the Spurs. Hey, it almost worked against the Heat, didn't it?
The only thing I'd like to remember from Monday's effort was the continued shot-swatting dominance of Larry Sanders, who blocked another seven shots and has now rejected 22 in his last three games. Sanders' emergence has probably been the best story of the Bucks' first month of the season, and it's sparking plenty of discussion about how good he could end up being. It's a fun topic, but also a scary one: Sanders' current numbers are virtually identical to those that Serge Ibaka put up last year, which in general is something to be excited about. But in case you were looking for a reason to choke on your breakfast this morning, let me remind you that Ibaka got a four year, $48 million extension from the Thunder this summer. Ouch.
Another comparison that might frighten Bucks fans: Sanders' numbers--both raw and advanced--also bear a more-than-passing resemblance to Dan Gadzuric's breakout 04/05 season. And before you recoil in horror (or choke on some other breakfast item), remember that Gadz was actually a damn useful player...before the Bucks handed him $36 million to back up Andrew Bogut. One important disclaimer in all this is age: while Sanders is 24, Ibaka was only 22 last season and Gadzuric was already 26 when he had his breakout season under Terry Porter. I don't expect Larry to develop into much more than he is now skill-wise, but all that is secondary to the issue of consistency. Can Sanders can stay on the court and sustain his rebounding (which is way up) and shot-blocking (which he's always done), all while keeping it simple and effective on the offensive end? It's not a huge leap to say he can, but the history of players like Gadzuric and Theo Ratliff offer cautionary tales of how things don't always go as planned.
Spurs update. Same old, same old in San Antonio. A year after claiming an NBA-best 50 wins in the lockout-shortened 11/12 season, the Spurs just continue to chug along. San Antonio (14-4, .778) still trails Memphis (12-3, .800) for the Southwest divisional lead, but they picked up a game on Saturday with a 99-95 OT win over the Grizzlies in San Antonio. The Spurs have been one of the league's most balanced teams to date, ranking fifth in both offensive and defensive efficiency while playing at one of the league's faster paces (sixth).
How good have the Spurs been over the past two decades? Well, they've won 47+ games (or the equivalent in the two lockout-shortened seasons) in all but one season since 1989. And yes, the one season they didn't win 47 games was 1997, when David Robinson missed all but six games and they stumbled to a mere 20-62 record...which won them the first overall pick that they would use on Tim Duncan.
In contrast, the Bucks have won at least 47 games in a season just once since 1991. In related news, a) I started following the Bucks in 1992 and b) life is not fair.
Timmy. Damn, what's gotten into Tim Duncan? His raw stats thus far (18.9 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 2.4 bpg) are his best in about five years, and his efficiency numbers are even more impressive: both his PER (27.5) and win shares/48 (.265)would represent career-highs if he maintained them for the rest of the season. I'll assume he won't maintain those stratospheric levels of production for the rest of the season, but he doesn't have to for the Spurs to be title contenders.
Injuries. Gary Neal (Achilles) and Danny Green (ankle) are both listed as questionable for tonight's game, which might require Gregg Popovich to lean more heavily on his bench...and some dude named Manu Ginobili. The 35-year-old Argentine's numbers are way down from his fantastic 11/12 season, but that still leaves Manu among the handful of absolute best sixth men in the league, which is all the more important given the continued absences of Kawhi Leonard and our old friend Stephen Jackson.
UPDATE: Green and Patty Mills are both out.
Starting small forward. Luc Mbah a Moute is finally back, Mike Dunleavy returned from a one-game absence in New Orleans, and Marquis Daniels has gone from 15th man in camp to starting small forward. And Tobias Harris...well, the Bucks' theoretical small forward of the future has seen his starting job become a thing of the (recent) past. Long story short, the Bucks' small forward rotation is a mess: four guys are likely to play there on any given night and, with Dunleavy struggling, none of them are playing particularly well. So what now, Scott Skiles?
"A lot will depend on how Marquis plays there," coach Scott Skiles said. "And if and when we feel Luc is ready to play more minutes. That stuff will play itself out."
Wait, a lot depends on how well the least talented guy of the group plays? Um, sure.