Here we are again, folks, in the thick of another installment of Milwaukee Bucks basketball. Tonight, the opponent is the long-respected but recently-questionable San Antonio Spurs, in the first game of a home-and-home series against the Western Conference franchise that held sway over the league for the last few decades.
It wasn’t pretty, but the Bucks won their matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves, and find themselves on the crest of a four-game winning streak. More interesting than that (can you remember a time when a four-game win streak was so unremarkable?!), two prominent members of the Bucks have earned themselves some recognition from the league. First up, Giannis Antetokounmpo was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Month for December.
The best of Giannis in December:— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) January 2, 2020
29.5 PPG (1st in East) | 12.4 RPG | 5.2 APG pic.twitter.com/X9HeFbxNNH
And worthy of mention in his own right, coach Mike Budenholzer earned the league’s Coach of the Month honor for December.
Of course, no number of awards can ward off haters, and the Bucks found themselves a notable one in a recent article of the New York Times, recognizing Giannis’ improvement but doubting the team’s ability to make it to the Finals. But as the author bravely admits:
I pre-emptively apologize for being totally wrong about this.
Sure thing. On the health side of things, Eric Bledsoe continues to work his way back to full strength and will be available but likely limited, although Wes Matthews is expected to suit up. Taking his place on the bench is Donte DiVincenzo, who is taking the game off for rest. And the Big Ragu just got some recognition from Zach Lowe in his weekly 10 Things column yesterday!
Player to Watch: Robin Lopez
The Bucks’ MVE (Most Valuable Enforcer) went borderline “Hacksaw Jim Duggan” (h/t oldresorter) last week on Jarrett Culver, but he’s also averaging double-digit points across his last 6 games. Not only that, he’s performing as advertised on defense, providing nearly-identical rim protection as twin brother Brook.
Brook might be getting DPOY buzz, but he’ll never have Robin’s never-ending pivot moves that turn into righty hooks. For that, we salute you, Robin.
For the first time in what feels like a long time, the Spurs are...easily overlooked. They’re still led by Gregg Popovich, but their best players (DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge) are throwbacks to a bygone era. The current 8 seed in the Western Conference, the Spurs have a number of problems, and while they might be finding a rhythm now it comes at a time where the schedule toughens up considerably. From SBNation’s Pounding The Rock:
If the Spurs can continue their momentum by showing their recent good play can be replicated against playoff teams, they can stand pat at the deadline or look to make a minor tweak to the roster to help make the playoff push. Otherwise, if the right offers come along, I don’t see any reason for holding onto veteran players on a non-playoff team when there might be interest from other teams with championship aspirations.
How the mighty have fallen. For tonight’s game, everyone on the San Antonio roster is expected to be healthy, though Dejounte Murray will miss the contest for personal reasons. It is expected that Derrick White will take his place in the rotation.
Player to Watch: Marco Belinelli
The Italian sharpshooter is listed here purely for selfish reasons: in the one game I managed to attend last year (in San Antonio), Belinelli broke the game open with some tough shot-making. Thankfully, Pau Gasol isn’t on the roster to undermine the Bucks’ chances this time around, but I want to call out Belinelli to make sure that the Bucks neutralize him on the perimeter.
Game 37: Against San Antonio, the Bucks will...
This poll is closed
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)