Last night's 101-86 victory over the Detroit Pistons was a welcome respite for the Milwaukee Bucks, who had been struggling tremendously at home for the better part of a month prior to the blowout win. Milwaukee moved back above .500 with the win and knocked Detroit a game and a half back of the Charlotte Hornets for the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Pistons' bigger loss was revealed after the final buzzer sounded, as reports have indicated that point guard Brandon Jennings suffered a serious achilles tendon injury and could be out for an extended time. Whatever your feelings about Jennings, it's a terrible setback for him as a player, and a big loss for Detroit, considering how well he'd been playing lately.
The Bucks now head to Texas looking to keep their record above .500, but they'll find tougher sledding against a Spurs team that has won its last five versus Milwaukee.
San Antonio is very, very happy to have Kawhi Leonard back. They're 4-1 in the five games since his return from a hand injury. In those five games Leonard has averaged 16 points and 9.2 rebounds per game while shooting over 40% from behind the three-point line. That one loss was a decisive 23-point walloping at the hands of the Chicago Bulls, but the Spurs bounced right back with a 14-point victory over the Los Angeles Lakers at home. And home is where they'll play their next five games including tonight, giving the Spurs a chance to make a push up the standings -- despite a record 11 games over .500, the Spurs are only the 7th seed in the Western Conference right now. Heck, they're in fourth place in their division! The West, man...
No real new concerns for either squad. Marco Belinelli, who has been out since early January with a groin/abdominal strain, remains sidelined for San Antonio.
The Spurs Machine might not be running at peak efficiency right now, but it's still humming along pretty smooth. San Antonio has finished in the top-10 of offensive and defensive efficiency every season since 2010-2011, but they currently rank a "pedestrian" 13th on offense. San Antonio still creates lots of efficient shots, but they're about average in ball protection and getting to the free-throw line and they rank in the bottom third in offensive rebounding (that's long been a stylistic tendency for the Spurs). Defensively they guard opposing shooters extremely well and dominate the defensive glass, but they don't force a ton of mistakes. Simply speaking, you can get shots against the Spurs but they're tough to make and even tougher to rebound.
Key Matchup: Antetokounmpo vs. Leonard
Tim Duncan may still be the engine that makes the Spurs go, but Leonard is looking more and more like the guy driving the truck. In the 27 games he's played this season, the Spurs have been more than 11 points better than their opponents per 100 possessions with Leonard on the court. He's a versatile offensive weapon and a disruptive defender. In short, he's everything we hope Giannis Antetokounmpo can become. Leonard isn't an easy guy to beat off the dribble, and even if Giannis can manage, he's got to deal with the elite rim protection San Antonio can throw at him. Unfortunately Giannis' jumper isn't reliable enough to force Leonard's hand in guarding him, but his slight size advantage could be put to use if the Bucks can isolate him. Defensively, he'll have to deal with the threat Kawhi presents everywhere on the court. Leonard can be a bit sloppy with the ball sometimes, so if Giannis can apply pressure and force a few turnovers, it could be a big help defensively and offensively.
|14/15 NBA Season|
|January 25, 2015|
|AT&T Center |San Antonio, TX
|Fox Sports Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ|
|Brandon Knight||PG||Tony Parker|
|Khris Middleton||SG||Danny Green|
|Giannis Antetokounmpo||SF||Kawhi Leonard|
|Ersan Ilyasova||PF||Tim Duncan|
|Zaza Pachulia||C||Tiago Splitter|
|2014/15 Advanced Stats|
|103.5 (23rd)||ORtg||106.5 (13th)