On the Spurs: Pounding the Rock | Project: Spurs | 48 Minutes of Hell
Spurs update. After losing four times in five games in mid-December, the Spurs have won six in a row and lead the league in road wins (12-6). And the Spurs haven't just been winning--they've been dominating. During the current streak they've averaged 110.8 points scored (54% shooting, 47% threes) while allowing a measly 90.0 points per game. At the age of 36, Tim Duncan continues to post his best per-minute and advanced metrics since the 06/07 while 30-year-old Tony Parker is also playing some of the best ball of his career. So yeah, those guys can still kill you.
Since the Bucks lost in San Antonio on December 5, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green have returned from injury and both started in Monday's win over the Nets. Their contributions have made up for the absence of shooting guard Gary Neal, who scored 22 against the Bucks in the teams' prior matchup but has missed four straight games with a calf injury and is doubtful tonight.
Also back? Stephen Jackson. The former Buck has been pretty awful (9.0 PER, 48.5% true shooting, -10.6 pts/100 net, 23 mpg) all season, but he's still gotten regular minutes from Gregg Popovich since returning in mid-December from a finger injury that cost him 14 games. The bottom line: the best coach in the league can keep Jax quiet, but he can't make him play well. Along with little-used guard Cory Joseph, Jackson is the only Spur whose lineups have been outscored overall on the season.
Matchups. I posted yesterday my view on the Bucks' starting forwards, namely that it's time to bench Marquis Danies, shift Luc Mbah a Moute back to small forward and give Ersan Ilyasova another shot at power forward. And tonight's game offers a good example of why the Bucks' current two-small-forwards-and-Larry Sanders lineup could make life very difficult. Both Duncan and Tiago Splitter are more centers than power forwards, so Mbah a Moute will be left to tangle with someone who's much bigger and stronger than him. The Spurs tend to play very small off the bench--they've run out lineups featuring Jackson at PF and Boris Diaw at center--but the starting frontcourt is both enormous and skilled on the block.