Here’s hoping someone on-staff reminded the team to move their clocks forward an hour after the Bucks downed the Charlotte Hornets last night. With little rest, a three hour flight, and a truncated shoot-around the Bucks will do their best to simply survive a quick trip to play the San Antonio Spurs.
For good portions last night’s win it was Milwaukee, not Charlotte, that looked the part of a tired team limping their way through the second game of a back-to-back. A sleepy first half let Frank “Frank the Tank” Kaminsky get loose for a trio of triples and a 59-55 halftime deficit for the Bucks. With Giannis Antetokounmpo taking time to get into a rhythm and Khris Middleton right back in a shooting slump, it unexpectedly fell to Brook Lopez’s venerable interior game of old to fuel a 39 point third quarter that kept Milwaukee on pace for their 50th win of the season.
The schedule makers did the Bucks no favors, though, having them hit the tarmac immediately after the final buzzer for a road game less than 20 hours later against the Spurs.
As of publication we haven’t gotten any health updates, but it’s probable Sterling Brown and George Hill continue their paths to recover from wrist and adductor ailments.
Player to Watch: Brook Lopez
It’s not often Lopez turns back the clock to his playing style of old, but he put in offensive work in and around the basket possession after possession against Kaminsky & Co. Will that be something coach Budenholzer turns to with slightly more regularity as the season winds down, if only to develop another tool to counter opponents? Going man to man against the likes of LaMarcus Aldridge may elicit a return to the perimeter for Lopez, but seeing how this approach develops, if any, should be of interest.
Second verse, much like the first: The Bucks are running across another opponent desperate to improve their playoff position. Much like the rising and setting of the sun, the Spurs under coach Gregg Popovich remain a team you should probably try to miss in the playoffs if at all possible, even as the eight seed.
Winners of four in a row and nearly as good at home as the Bucks (25-7 this year), San Antonio won’t beat you over the head from three (though they lead the league in 3P%) but instead hit you with as many clean looks from two as they can manage while minimizing errors via turnovers and allowed offensive rebounds. It’s certainly traditional approach, but it’s tough to argue against given the results and the personnel available to Popovich.
Rudy Gay is listed as questionable due to illness and promising guard Dejounte Murray is still rehabbing a torn ACL.
Player to Watch: DeMar DeRozan
The mid-range king himself awaits.
Apparently the .203 3PAr of a year ago was nothing more than a mirage as DeRozan has dropped it to .038 this season. 74.3% of his shot attempts come from anywhere between three feet and the three point line, which, while normally inefficient for most, has always been DeMar’s bread and butter (the .712 hit rate within three feet of the basket helps). For a team as reliant upon drop coverage as a core defensive principle as Milwaukee, the best bet is to maintain physical contact, minimize the minutes Pat Connaughton spends trying to play catch-up, and hope DeRozan’s accuracy is off for an evening.
Game 67: Against the Spurs the Bucks will...
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Win big (by 10 or more points)
Win close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose big (by 10 or more points)