On any other night when Milwaukee is playing on their second game of a back-to-back, you’d expect an incomplete roster available. Tonight the fans were treated with the full lineup in San Antonio to take on a hot Spurs team that is in the middle of a tight playoff race in the West. The Bucks kept it close for most of the game but they ran out of energy towards the end and had to take the loss, 121-114.
On the second day of a back-to-back with travel, the Bucks miraculously put out their usual five starters. Most similar occasions this season suggested that Coach Bud would choose one or two guys to take the day off. Not to mention that San Antonio hadn’t played since Wednesday. Eric Bledsoe got the scoring started with a three from the top of the key. Bledsoe hit his first four shots in the first four minutes of the game to give Milwaukee a seven point lead early and force a timeout from Gregg Popovich. Bledsoe was clearly showing that no guard on the Spurs could stay with him.
Milwaukee continued to look like the team that had the three days rest for much of the first quarter that included a 16-2 run from the Bucks. Bledsoe and Khris Middleton both had rough nights last night but you couldn’t tell from their hot shooting to begin this game. Even Pau Gasol got in on the party with a three against his former team. Milwaukee held a 32-25 lead at the sound of the first buzzer behind Bledsoe and Middleton who combined for 16 points on 6-6 shooting. As a team, the Bucks shot 56.5% from the field to San Antonio’s 42.3% from the floor.
Patty Mills started the second quarter with a three which prompted an answer from Tony Snell on the other end to maintain the seven point lead. The Spurs 18-5 run spanning both quarters cut the lead to as low as two before Brook Lopez and Malcolm Brogdon decided they wanted a larger lead. With the margin back to seven, Coach Pop called a timeout to find an answer for Milwaukee’s penetration.
Out of the timeout, Giannis acted out the definition of bully-ball with an and-1 dunk after backing out several Spurs bigs in the lane followed by an all arms and legs drive through the entire city of San Antonio. Milwaukee as a team was showing no signs of exhaustion 18 minutes into the contest. Despite a cold deep shooting streak from the Bucks, they still held a 53-44 lead with 4:09 left in the first half going into a timeout from Coach Bud.
San Antonio was able to cut the lead down three points and Milwaukee led 60-54 at the half. Giannis and Bledsoe had 14 points on 9 shots a piece followed by Khris with 9. LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan were the only Spurs to enter double digit scoring.
The Spurs came out firing in the second half and cut the deficit to two in the first minute. Aldridge hit a corner three with 8:41 left in the third to give the Spurs their first lead at 67-64 to force a timeout from Coach Bud. A 22-4 run from the Spurs between the second and third quarters gave them a seven point lead with seven minutes left in the quarter. San Antonio was threatening to pull away with this one in their home arena.
Milwaukee quickly pulled the margin back to two when a bat entered the arena and put a short stop to the game. When it left, play resumed with six minutes left in the quarter. Nikola Mirotic regained the lead for the Bucks immediately with a pull up three. A lot of back and forth ensued the rest of the third quarter. A couple of Marco Belinelli threes was the difference and the Spurs held an 87-83 lead through three quarters. San Antonia was led by Aldridge and DeRozan who scored 23 and 22 up to this point, respectively. Giannis and Bledsoe were tied at 18 to lead the Bucks.
San Antonio built their lead to ten in the first 1:30 of the fourth quarter and the Bucks went to the bench to try and formulate a game plan for the remainder of the game. The hard part about that for Coach Bud was factoring in the level of fatigue Milwaukee was beginning to show. Many of their jump shots were falling short and the Spurs were out-rebounding a team that is normally elite in that category. The lead got to a game-high 14 for the Spurs with 7:29 left and another timeout was called to give the away team some rest for the final push.
The Bucks were giving everything they had to cut the deficit but Aldridge and DeRozan were hitting shot after shot to keep a safe distance between the two. Brook Lopez got the margin down to nine with 3:27 left in the game after a couple of free throws. It didn’t get closer than that until a buzzer beating three by Tony Snell to close the game trimmed the deficit to seven to lose 121-114.
Giannis finished with 27/13/6 on 10-18 from the field and a three.
Bledsoe finished with 21/2/6 on a very efficient 9-13 from the floor. Pat Connaughton added 14 off the bench on a perfect 5-5.
Aldridge had 29/15 to go with DeRozan’s 28/4/6. Mills and Belinelli had 16 each off the bench on a combined 8-15 from deep.
The Bucks were at a disadvantage from the start in this one. They arrived in San Antonio at 5:00 a.m. this morning after defeating the Hornets last night in Milwaukee. Meanwhile, the Spurs had been resting for half a week going into the game. The first quarter felt like what the entire game would be like had both teams had equal rest. However, fatigue played a factor and when the Bucks shooting began to fall, the Spurs shooting began to get hot. Despite every effort to get back into the game, San Antonio wouldn’t allow it and they extended their league-leading home win streak to eight games.
Milwaukee’s lead in the East is now down to two games with fifteen games remaining. The Bucks need to go 10-5 the rest of the way to achieve the milestone of 60 wins in a season. They travel to New Orleans for a Tuesday night matchup with Anthony Davis and the Pelicans at 7:00 p.m.