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Bucks vs. Spurs Final Score: Milwaukee comes achingly close to upsetting San Antonio, 97-96

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A wide-open Teletovic shot rattles out in the closing seconds as Milwaukee narrowly loses to San Antonio

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Mirza Teletovic doesn’t need an inch of space to get a promising shot off, let alone six feet of it. So as he launched wide-open corner three with five seconds left and the Bucks down one, it appeared Milwaukee may actually prevail over the San Antonio Spurs. Instead, the shot bounced harmlessly off the rim and the Spurs celebrated their ninth straight victory over Milwaukee, 97-96 despite a rim-rattling effort from Milwaukee’s two stars.

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The Bucks came out like dynamos in the first half, with Giannis Antetokounmpo flinging his limbs all over the court en route to 22 points on 6-12 shooting, 11 rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block. Giannis battled foul trouble in the second half though (five fouls on the night), and Jabari Parker stepped into the void with a number of timely baskets and smooth assists to teammates while Giannis sat out, winding up with 23 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Teletovic added 11 (3-8 from three), but Greg Monroe was the only other Buck in double figures with 10 points and 13 rebounds.

San Antonio looked woozy early on, with uncharacteristic turnovers and a static offense that shot only 32% in the first half. They responded with an all-paint attack, dominating second half points in the paint, 34-10, to eventually win that battle 44-34 over Milwaukee. Kawhi Leonard mustered 21 points on 9-22 shooting, including 16 of those in the fourth quarter, coinciding with Giannis’ absence from the game. LaMarcus Aldridge added 18 and nine, including what proved to be the game-winner on a Giannis goaltending call with 20 seconds left.

Neither team shot particularly well from deep, 25% (6-24) for Milwaukee and 29% (8-28) for San Antonio, but the Spurs managed 10 more made field goals than the Bucks. Milwaukee stayed in it by willing themselves to the free throw line, hitting 30-34 on the night compared to San Antonio’s nine makes. After 11 turnovers in the first half, the Spurs only had three in the second, and Milwaukee couldn’t capitalize as much in the second half as the Spurs narrowly defeated the Bucks.

Giannis splashed a jumper in Pau Gasol’s face on a switch to start of the game, but Kawhi answered with his own pull-up in the lane to even it up. Giannis looked entirely comfortable early on though, with multiple finesse finishes in transition before San Antonio’s defense could get set. Three San Antonio 3-pointers kept them up early, but after Aldridge botched a few bunnies, Giannis ripped down a rebound and gyro-stepped his way from the arc to the hoop and put Milwaukee ahead 16-13.

Aldridge atoned for his restricted area sins soon, putting up six straight points and making it 21-18 as Milwaukee went to an all-bench lineup for the final 2:52 of the quarter. Greg Monroe responded with a jumper and swift lay in off a Brogdon feed, but Milwaukee fell behind 26-24 after one.

The bench crew stayed in for the first four minutes of the second, with a Mirza Teletovic three-pointer giving Milwaukee a 29-26 lead before Giannis re-entered and started up a Bucks 10-0 run by immediately getting to the line and following up with a straight flush off a Delly feed near the hoop. Oh, and he capped the run by shoveling Jabari Parker’s leftovers down the Spurs throats with this little number:

Tony Parker answered with four straight points of his own to get San Antonio back within 39-32, but Milwaukee remained intent on preserving a prominent lead as Jabari bludgeoned his way down low on back-to-back possessions. San Antonio’s shooting woes in the second quarter only continued, and Giannis remained intent on smashing the Spurs beautiful basketball machine. After a physically overwhelming block on a Kawhi shot near the rim, Giannis reached to the heavens and rained a smooth transition three in an attempt at a two-for-one near the end of the half to make it 48-35 heading into halftime.

Giannis threw up 16 points, five rebounds, one assist, one block and two steals on the half to lead the Bucks, who finished the half shooting only 42% (2-10 from three), but dominating the Spurs on points in the paint (24-10) and going plus-13 on points off turnovers. San Antonio treated baskets like radioactive waste, shooting only 31%, including 4/14 on three-pointers. Kawhi wound up with only five points and Aldridge had nine points, including none in the second quarter as the Spurs mustered only nine points total in the second period.

A stop-and-start third quarter ensued, as San Antonio wormed their way back into the game by returning to their fundamentals by cutting turnovers and attacking the paint. After Tony Parker left the game on knee-to-knee contact with Dellavedova at the 8:44 mark, the Spurs turned a 53-40 deficit into a 58-53 close contest. The Spurs continued bulldozing the Bucks defense down low, as Dewayne Dedmon got loose at the basket on an alarming number of pick and rolls. Milwaukee stayed in the game by purchasing a timeshare at the free throw line though, ending 16-17 on FT attempts in the quarter.

Then things got a bit testy. With 1:19 to go, Greg Monroe awkwardly went over top of Dedmon but got a jump ball call — and a bit of an elbow from Dedmon. Monroe pushed back and Davis Bertans took issue with this, and a donnybrook ensued with Michael Beasley sticking his corn-rowed mug into the fray. When the scrum cleared, Bertans and Beasley were ejected. More importantly though, Milwaukee clung to a 70-68 lead before a Teletovic three pointer vaulted them up 73-68. San Antonio closed the gap to two at 73-71 by the end of the third.

A Dedmon layup early in the fourth gave San Antonio the lead 76-75, their first lead since the first quarter. Milwaukee regained the lead 78-76, but Giannis was forced to leave the game after picking up his fifth foul. San Antonio, specifically Kawhi Leonard, took advantage of his absence, scoring six points on jumpers, runners and an unchallenged dunk before Tony Snell scored a layup to keep Milwaukee within two at 84-82.

In Giannis’ absence, clutch Jabari decided to saddle up. After nailing a three pointer, he sported two nifty assists, one to Monroe off an offensive rebound and the other to Mirza for a baseline jumper as Milwaukee emerged 92-89. Manu Ginobli answered with a layup as the ball rolled the circumference of the hoop practically twice before it plunked down. A bad Dellavedova turnover gave Kawhi a simple clean-up dunk, but Jabari answered with a free throw jumper and shimmy around Gasol in transition to make it 96-93. Kawhi, en route to 16 points in the quarter, responded with two free throws and San Antonio got the ball back down one with 32 seconds left.

After Aldridge snuffed out a Giannis drive, Kawhi’s baseline jumper caromed off the rim, but Aldridge snagged the board and shoveled it back up before Giannis burst into the air like a spontaneous combustion and sent the shot back to Texas. Unfortunately, it was ruled a goaltend and the Spurs lead 97-96. With 21 seconds left, Giannis probed the lane before kicking to Delly on the perimeter, who swung to Mirza for a wide open three in the corner that rimmed out. San Antonio grabbed the rebound and ran out the clock before Milwaukee could foul, sending the Bucks to a 97-96 loss.

- Adam Paris

Thoughts:

  • While the Spurs might be in the same general ballpark of the Warriors and Raptors, this loss should sting far more than the Bucks’ losses to Golden State and Toronto. Unlike those games, the Bucks played from in front for the vast majority of the game, but similar to the Warriors game they fired blanks down the stretch, firing up the Benny Hill music for bad turnovers by Delly, Giannis and Jabari.
  • You wouldn't have known it from the box score, but I'm not sure I've ever seen Jabari Parker trying harder to be both 1) a playmaker and 2) a crunch-time alpha dog . As in the fourth quarter against Brooklyn, Parker initiated the offense at times and generally looked to be dishing at every turn, at times looking like he wanted to put some flair on passes that really didn't need any. Unfortunately, most of his best passes resulted in either fouls or in the hands of Henson outside the restricted area (you're not picking up assists with those), but it's an interesting trend that's been gaining momentum over the past couple weeks. Among the assists that did count: a key kickout to Teletovic for a baseline jumper in the fourth, in addition to a sweet flip to Monroe for a key layup midway through the fourth. Not to be outdone, he splashed home a wing three, a midranger and a bully-ball driving layup in transition with the Bucks desperate for offense.
  • Michael Beasley has been on his chillest behavior all season, but all it took was Davis Bertans escalating a Monroe-Dedmon dustup to unleash a bit of Cray Beasy. OK, it wasn't THAT bad, but it was probably fair enough that both Bertans and Beasley were tossed for making an exchange of pleasantries a full-blown 10-man square-dance. Unfortunately it also seemed to light a fire under the Spurs.
  • The Bucks were able to build a lead in the second quarter in spite of Monroe's defensive vulnerabilities against Aldridge, but he ironically had less luck when matched mostly against Dedmon in the third. Dedmon twice got loose for alley-oop finishes and tipped in two more, the last coming over top of Teletovic with two seconds left in the third. Do yourself a favor: don’t compare what Miles Plumlee is getting paid to what Dedmon is getting paid.
  • After hitting a couple early shots, Leonard was oddly deferential in the middle quarters, and it wasn't just because Giannis was guarding him. He seemed as indifferent to shooting against Parker and Beasley, though he woke up in time to save the Spurs in the fourth.
  • Giannis didn’t have foul trouble in the first half, but he picked up three fouls in third —two defending Pau in the post within 20 seconds of one another — and looked like he was almost trying to foul Leonard 25 feet from the basket with nine minutes left in the fourth. Putting two hands on a superstar that far out when you’re carrying four fouls is never a bright idea, especially given Leonard had wanted a foul call on Giannis the prior possession as well. Unfortunately it cost Giannis about seven minutes of game action, and unfortunately that type of overly aggressive, handsy defense while carrying fouls is nothing new from Antetokounmpo.

- Frank Madden