Eleven games into the 2022-23 NBA regular season, the Milwaukee Bucks are still going strong...and the team is nowhere near full strength. Tonight, they pay a visit to the San Antonio Spurs to close out a three-game road trip, which marks the end of what has been a relatively easy start to the year.
Where We’re At
No Pat Connaughton? No Joe Ingles? No Khris Middleton? No Jrue Holiday? No Giannis Antetokounmpo? No problem. With the equivalent of a playoff closing lineup in street clothes, the Bucks have maintained their winning ways behind Brook Lopez, Bobby Portis, and Jevon Carter; most recently, the Bucks kept themselves above water just enough through all of regulation and two overtimes to claim a win over the Thunder, as everyone’s favorite Bulldog (sorry, Pluto) notched a career high in points, assists, and brevity:
Jevon really said: I woke up like this. pic.twitter.com/R4AyUxJpbi— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) November 10, 2022
Milwaukee has been middle-of-the-road on offense for the opening games this season, but their defense is so good that they grind the opponents’ will to a pulp and end up winning games anyway. It’s not always pretty to watch, but the results speak for themselves. Sooner or later, that lengthy list of inactive will grow shorter, as Holiday and Antetokounmpo’s absences are expected to be short-term, and both Connaughton and Middleton are on the road to returning to the active roster within a few weeks.
Meanwhile in San Antonio, the quest for Victor Wembanyama has been somewhat hampered by the quest for victory. at 5-7, the Spurs have six teams below them in the Western Conference standings (including the defending champion Golden State Warriors?) which makes now as good a time to activate the Tanking Protocols as any. You know, assuming the Spurs are the sort of team to tank for a generational prospect. Head coach Gregg Popovich has implemented a pass-heavy, movement-required offense that helped prop the Spurs up early on this year, despite the fact they’ve lost five straight. From Pounding the Rock:
The Spurs pass and move offense has been so much fun to watch this year. It will be interesting seeing it in action against a Milwaukee team that’s been at the top of the league so far this season. Thankfully, forcing turnovers isn’t their strong suite, an area where San Antonio’s offense has run into trouble early on this season with so much passing and a bit of inexperience at work.
Tonight, San Antonio is without Blake Wesley (knee) and Zach Collins (leg fracture) but is otherwise at full strength.
Player To Watch
The high-flying forward Keldon Johnson has been thriving as a focal point in San Antonio, starting off this season averaging 23 points/5 rebounds/4 assists while shooting 41.2% from long range. In his fourth season, Johnson has taken a trajectory that most late first round picks (29th overall in 2019) can only dream of, drastically improving his scoring output each year in the league while maintaining his impact across the board. He may not be an All Star this year but at only 23 years old, Johnson is a name worth following as he hones his craft in the NBA.
Game 12: Against San Antonio, 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)