On the Spurs: Pounding the Rock / 48 Minutes of Hell / Project Spurs
The Milwaukee Bucks expect to have Andrew Bogut back when they return home following from 0-5 Western Conference road trip to host the San Antonio Spurs in Milwaukee.
Mirror, mirror. Though the Spurs' 6-3 record is nearly the reverse of the Bucks' 2-6 mark, the two teams have one obvious trait in common: both teams are undefeated at home and yet to win on the road, with the Spurs losing each of their three road games (Houston, Minnesota, Oklahoma City) by at least 10 points.
Bogut returns. Andrew Bogut's absence didn't help the Bucks any on their disastrous 0-5 Western road trip, but his expected return tonight does offer renewed hope that Milwaukee will turn things around this season. Unfortunately there's still no word on the return of Mike Dunleavy (groin), Luc Mbah a Moute (knee tendinitis) or Beno Udrih (shoulder). The Spurs are dealing with their own absence however--star wing Manu Ginobili is out at least another month after breaking his hand two weeks ago.
Aside from the obvious importance of adding Bogut back into the starting lineup, Scott Skiles may also shake up his PF rotation. Ersan Ilyasova has started all eight games to date, but consistency has once again been an issue.
"He's pressing a little bit," Skiles said. "The reality is Ers' ideal role is probably an off-the-bench forward, anyway.
"It's not that he can never start. It's just that if you had a really good, deep club, that would be his role."
Not exactly a ringing endorsement, though it's hardly unexpected given Ilyasova's struggles shooting the ball and inconsistent defense to date. On the positive side, it's difficult to argue that Jon Leuer hasn't been the most deserving of the starting power forward position to date, but whether Skiles rewards the rookie with a starting spot is unclear. At a minimum, it's encouraging to see Leuer getting consistent minutes; he's now played 20+ minutes in three straight games.
Score Antonio. Remember when the Spurs were supposed to be boring? This year's edition leads the NBA in scoring efficiency despite losing the hyper-efficient Manu Ginobili to a broken hand a couple weeks ago (he could miss up to two months).The Spurs are also fifth in defensive rebound rate (75.9%), a stark contrast to the Bucks' struggles which has them third from the bottom (69.7%). Milwaukee's pre-shot defense has been better, as they're fourth in the league in turnover differential.
The kids are alright. The Spurs are generally considered an older team because of graybeards like Duncan and Ginobili, but R.C. Buford and company have also done very well finding young rotation players to complement their aging stars. They have currently four players with three or fewer seasons of experience with PERs over 15 (Gary Neal, DeJuan Blair, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard) and that doesn't even include talented big man Tiago Splitter and 2010 first round pick James Anderson. Neal came out of nowhere to claim an all-rookie team nod last season, while Leonard recorded his first career double-double in the Spurs' 108-96 loss to the Thunder on Sunday.
For the Bucks, Leuer has been a bright spot since the first game of the preseason, but Milwaukee also saw some encouraging things during the blowout loss in Phoenix, as rookie Tobias Harris scored 15 points on eight shots in his second NBA game. It was mostly garbage time stuff, but for a 19-year-old kid who missed virtually all of training camp it's very positive stuff.