After splitting a four-game road trip, the Milwaukee Bucks return home for the first time in 2016 to face the high-powered San Antonio Spurs inside the BMO Harris Bradley Center. The Bucks are hoping for a much better result this time around compared to their ugly 95-70 defeat roughly a month ago.
Good news: December is over and the Bucks (14-21) managed to finish their second four-game road trip at 2-2, winning their last two games against the Pacers and Timberwolves. Bad news: They haven't won three-straight games since Nov. 6.
Still, Saturday's game against Minnesota was highly encouraging considering how bad the Bucks started. They missed their first 11 shots from the field and trailed by 17 points midway through the first quarter. But behind 42 paint points, a 23-6 run in the second quarter and a horrid start to the fourth quarter from the Wolves, the Bucks stole a win at the Target Center. Greg Monroe led all Bucks players with 19 points and 10 rebounds, recording his 16th double-double of the season. Giannis Antetokounmpo had an uneven game, finishing with 11 points and nine rebounds while going 3-of-9. He unfortunately ended up chipping a tooth and headed to the dentist Sunday. He should still be available, but we'll have confirmation as tip approaches.
Before Saturday's comeback, Khris Middleton had dropped 33 points and helped the Bucks survive a late comeback by the Pacers in Indy, 120-116. Behind Paul George's 31 points (17 in the final period), Indiana outscored Milwaukee 39-31 in the fourth quarter. Former Buck Monta Ellis actually had a chance to tie the game at 117 with 14 ticks left but missed a 3-point shot from 24 feet. Solomon Hill dunked with 7.7 seconds remaining to make it a two-point game before Middleton eventually closed it out at the free-throw line.
Even though his 4-of-11 (13 points) performance Saturday was a downer, Middleton's been on a absolute tear lately: 23.4 points on 56 percent shooting with five assists over the last seven games.
At 29-6, the Spurs are No. 2 in the West behind the Golden State Warriors, who are having an historic season. It's kind of weird how the Warriors' start has negated how good the Spurs actually are right now. With a defensive rating of 94.9, the Spurs are putting together one of the best defensive seasons in league history. For perspective, the Warriors led the league in defensive efficiency last year at 101.4 points/100 possessions -- almost seven points more than what the Spurs are allowing right now.
Coming off a 121-103 victory against the Rockets, the Spurs are currently riding a four-game winning streak and have lost only two games dating back to Nov. 30. Two. LaMarcus Aldridge went 10-of-16 from the field in addition to going 4-of-4 from the line and led the Spurs with 24 points and nine rebounds. The Spurs got 55 points from their bench, including 20 from veteran Boris Diaw in 25 minutes of action.
Reigning defensive player of the year Kawhi Leonard is enjoying a career-year, averaging 20.8 points (62 percent true shooting), 7.2 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game. Despite limited nights and attempting just seven shots per, the ageless Tim Duncan still chips in 8.7 a night with a solid 7.9 boards alongside Aldridge's 15.8 and 8.8.
The two things that to stand out about tonight's matchup is how San Antonio poetically moves the ball visually compared to Milwaukee, plus the personal foul count. As O.J. Mayo put it last game, it seems like the Bucks are getting frustrated with officials (if it isn't already clear on the court each game) and San Antonio commits the third-fewest amount of fouls per game. Meanwhile, the Bucks are 30th.
This game against the Spurs will be much different than anything the Pacers or Timberwolves present. While the Spurs don't shoot many threes -- they're just 26th in attempts -- they do rank second in the NBA with a 38.2 percent accuracy from deep. Spurs starters Aldridge, Duncan and Leonard combined to go 13-of-33 last time while sharp-shooter Danny Green didn't hit any triples -- and they still won by 25. They're unlikely to miss that many shots again, but hey, if there's one positive to look at, all of the Spurs' six loses this season have been on the road.
Injury update: Tony Parker will miss Monday's game due to right hip soreness.
On the Spurs: Pounding The Rock | SA Express-News
|2015/16 NBA Season|
|January 3, 2015|
|BMO Harris Bradley Center | Milwaukee|
|Fox Sports Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ|
|Patty Mills||PG||Michael Carter-Williams|
|Danny Green||SG||Khris Middleton|
|Kawhi Leonard||SF||Giannis Antetokounmpo|
|LaMarcus Aldridge||PF||Jabari Parker|
|Tim Duncan||C||Greg Monroe|
|2014/15 Advanced Stats|
|93.8 (24th)||Pace||93.9 (23rd)|
|109.4 (3rd)||ORtg||103.4 (24th)|
|94.9 (1st)||DRtg||109.0 (28th)|