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Spurs vs. Bucks Preview | Mighty Spurs roll into Milwaukee

The Bucks escaped Chicago last night with a win that was equal parts ugly and rare. Their reward: a mission impossible game against the mighty Spurs at the Bradley Center.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
2013 NBA Preseason
(5-16, 2-8 home)
(16-4, 8-2 road)
December 11, 2013
BMO Harris Bradley Center | Milwaukee, WI
7:00 CT
FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ / Audio League Pass
Probable Starters
Brandon Knight PG Tony Parker
O.J. Mayo SG Danny Green
Khris Middleton SF Kawhi Leonard
Ekpe Udoh PF Aron Baynes
John Henson C Tim Duncan
2012/13 Advanced Stats
91.3 (26th) Pace 95.2 (11th)
97.3 (30th) ORtg 107.7 (7th)
105.9 (20th) DRtg 98.3 (2nd)

On the Spurs: Pounding the Rock | Project: Spurs | 48 Minutes of Hell

Spurs update. Another year, another great Spurs team. Even including the lockout-shortened 11/12 campaign, the Spurs have won 50+ fourteen straight seasons. The last time they fell short of 50 wins, they went 37-13 in the lockout-shortened 98/99 campaign and won the NBA championship. For reference: the Bucks have won 50 games just once in the last 20 years. So from an organizational standpoint you'd have a hard time finding a more yin vs. yang matchup.

Though they're "only" tied with the Thunder for second in the West behind the 18-4 Blazers, San Antonio does boast the league's best scoring differential, which means they not surprisingly do pretty much everything well. Defensively they force misses (7th in eFG%), they rebound said misses (2nd in DReb%) and they rarely foul (2nd in free throw rate), which has translated thus far into the second stingiest defense in the league.

Offensively they're lethal from the perimeter (3rd in three point percentage) with seven guys hitting better than 38% from deep, which also explains why they rank second in overall eFG%. Still, they have two of the four factors going against them: they don't hit the offensive boards (28th) and get to the line less than any other team in the league. The offensive rebounding issue probably isn't a flaw so much as an output of their defensive focus (ie get back rather than crash the boards), and it doesn't matter so much when you never miss anyway. The free throw issue might be more of an Achilles heel however, suggesting that they will be vulnerable on nights when they're not connecting from deep.

Making 'em Pop. Maybe we should call them the Lake Woebegone Spurs, because everyone who plays for Gregg Popovich seems to become above-average (except Stephen Jackson, obviously). Take a look at the Spurs' Basketball Reference page and you'll find a roster with nine guys boasting PERs above 15.0 and 11 guys with WS/48 above 0.100. As I've taken to noting of late, the Bucks have precisely one guy with a PER above 15.0 (John Henson at 20.8), with Khris Middleton (0.100) just barely joining Henson (0.146) in the 0.100+ club for WS/48. Talent is a big part of the story, but environment--coaching, continuity, etc--is clearly a big piece of the puzzle, too. All that said, it's interesting to note that Gary Neal's numbers in Milwaukee are fairly similar to what he did in San Antonio last year--his PER is up (12.4 vs. 11.5), true shooting is about the same (50.7% vs. 51.2%) and WS/48 is down (0.031 vs. 0.060). And while he may be out again due to plantar fasciitis tonight, he dealt with similar foot issues last year, too.

It figures then that the Spurs' two least-efficient guys (big men Aron Baynes and Jeff Ayres) put on a show in Toronto last night, connecting on 9/11 shots to help the Spurs rally from an early deficit to dispatch the Raptors 116-103. With Tiago Splitter out last night and possibly again tonight, Baynes scored 14 off the bench while fellow reserves Manu Ginobili (16 pts) and Marco Belinelli (12 pts) also did their thing.

Young. Everybody's taking note of the Bucks' youth movement, and rightly so. No one over the age of 26 saw minutes for the Bucks in their win over the Bulls last night--their straight in Chicago--with John Henson delivering yet another excellent performance (11/17 fg, 25 pts, 14 rebs, 6 blk) as part of his ongoing breakout campaign. Ersan Ilyasova (31 minutes) once again came off the bench as part of the Bucks' three-man big rotation, with Henson (44 min) and Ekpe Udoh (22 min) starting.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was a non-factor in 10 first half minutes and was left to observe the second half from the bench, while Nate Wolters made a jump shot (!) but was otherwise not terribly impactful. Drew even inserted Wolters alongside Mayo and Knight to start the second half ahead of Middleton, who struggled to contain Mike Dunleavy in the second quarter. Still, Nate's lack of confidence from the perimeter would seem to make him difficult to play off the ball at this point, though with Knight around it's not rocket science to figure out who should be bringing the ball up.

Also, if you weren't on Twitter last night you missed a discussion of the hobo-ification (it's a thing) of Ersan Ilyasova, captured in photoshop by our friend Jon Hartzell: