The San Antonio Spurs gave a valiant effort but ended up losing to the Milwaukee Bucks by a final score of 125-121. The win improved the Bucks to 25-10, the second best record in the Eastern Conference. The loss dropped the Spurs to 5-29, the second worst record in the NBA.
San Antonio got off to a slow start but had mostly recovered by halftime. To begin the third quarter, the Spurs again struggled. Thankfully, the good guys rallied again to tie the game heading into the fourth quarter, 93-93.
The final stanza was a back and forth affair — but the Spurs had the upper hand for more of the quarter. With three and a half minutes remaining, the Spurs were up by five points, 117-112. Unfortunately, that’s when the Bucks went on a 9-1 run to take a three-point lead with a little more than a minute left to play.
Never fear, Spurs fans, because Wembanyama blocked a shot at the rim and followed up the block with a three-pointer to tie the game. After Antetokounmpo responded with an old fashioned three-point play, the Spurs missed a three that could have tied it.
Following another Wembanyama block on the ensuing possession with less than 24 seconds remaining, the Spurs had one more chance to try to tie the game. But, no, it didn’t happen. Instead, Tre Jones missed an open three and San Antonio was left with another loss.
Overall, it’d be fair to classify this game as a moral victory. Antetokounmpo, who entered the game shooting 21% from three-point range, hit two three-pointers in the closing minutes. Without those shots, the Spurs probably win. Add in some very good individual performances and there were definitely reasons for happiness in Spursland — despite yet another loss.
Stats: Spurs vs. Bucks
Spurs vs. Bucks – Final Grades
What a wonderful performance by Wembanyama. He totaled 27 points, nine rebounds and five blocks in 26 minutes — but the numbers don’t even do it justice. Wembanyama had a number of big-time plays in big-time moments. Defensively, he was at his best when the Spurs needed him most. Offensively, he competed at a high level and gave the Spurs a chance. Sure, there were some negatives (he hesitated on a few threes, he had five turnovers and five fouls) but Wembanyama showed glimpses of how he could turn into an absolute force on both ends of the court who is capable of rising to the occasion.
Vassell might have had his best offensive game of his career. He totaled 34 points and rarely got anything easy. He fought for his points and did a wonderful job of scoring on the inside to eventually open up perimeter shots. Not only did Vassell shoot well, he passed it wisely and finished without a turnover. I also liked what he did on the defensive end by consistently being in the right spots and using his length to his advantage. When Vassell plays like an aggressive top scoring option who doesn’t settle, it’s easy to see why the Spurs gave him his hefty contract.
Just looking at his statistics, it would appear as if Sochan played pretty well. Nine points, eight rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block? Sounds somewhat impressive. The reality, though, was that Sochan was really bad. On the offensive end, he took bad angles consistently, forced bad passes, authored key mistakes and basically just got in the way. When Sochan was involved on the offensive end, the impending doom in the air was palpable. Defensively, I didn’t see anything to be too impressed about. Antetokounmpo could just go right through him and shooters shot right over Sochan. All in all, it was very difficult watching him play tonight.
Should Jones be starting at point guard for the Spurs? He made a good case for just that tonight. With Jones running the show, things went a lot smoother than usual. (Who woulda thunk starting a point guard at point guard would turn out to be a good move?) Jones picked his spots well to put points on the board when the Bucks were focused elsewhere. He passed it well, got the Spurs into their sets and made sure the pace was accelerated. Defensively, he did a lot of good and rarely was a liability. Sadly, though, Jones’ evening will be mostly remembered for the three-pointer he missed that could have tied it.
I liked Champagnie’s shot-selection — but he simply didn’t get the job done. Going scoreless in 21 minutes as a starter isn’t going to cut it. He has to do a better job of finding ways to impact the game. His defense was okay-ish but he needed to move more on offense and do so with more purpose.
The good: Johnson had some of the most impressive finishes of his career. His hangtime around the rim felt like a second or two longer than usual. Johnson played with a ton of energy, which showed up in the rebounding column. He also limited his turnovers and fouls. The bad: Johnson missed shots he can make and also forced up a few shots he should have passed on. The result was an unsightly 5-for-17 showing from the field. Johnson’s passing, which is much improved this season, was a weakness on this night. Outside of his effort rebounding-wise, his defense wasn’t anything notable.
Osman was clearly the best bench player against Milwaukee. First of all, his competitiveness and awareness on defense were at higher levels than normal. He was actually making plays on that end on a consistent basis. Offensively, Osman was equally as effective. He hit three three-pointers, ran the court hard, passed the rock extremely well and drove with physicality. When Osman plays like this, he is a valuable cog in the wheel.
Barlow got off to a slow start in the NBA this season but he’s really turning things around. This was clearly his best game of the season so far. His patience was much improved and, as a result, he exhibited much better touch. The patience also allowed him to read, process and make the right decision — which led to four assists and no turnovers. Defensively, his rim protection was much better and his perimeter defense looked legitimate at times. Barlow has room to improve but this was a really promising showing that was cut a little short after he took an elbow to the face.
As has been discussed in recent games, Wesley is trying to learn how to tiptoe the line between being smart with the ball and being adequately assertive. Against the Bucks, he clearly wasn’t assertive enough. On offense, he had a couple heady passes but didn’t pressure the rim. Wesley’s speed is the advantage given to him by the basketball gods — and he didn’t take advantage of that. He was pretty good defensively but nothing worthy of writing home about. It was a good effort by Wesley but he needs to do more to justify playing time at this level.
After Barlow exited, Mamukelashvili was given a few minutes. Regrettably, the Bucks — his former team — took advantage of his lack of rim protection and quick-twitch mobility. Mamukelashvili was a liability to the point that the coaches had to obviously change things up and take him out.
The Spurs competed very well, which is a plus on Pop’s side. His overall strategy on defense was good. Offensively, the playcalling and the rotations down the stretch were highly questionable, though. During money time, the plays rarely delivered clean looks. With the Spurs needing three points, having Sochan and Jones on the court late was a head-scratcher. (Having Sochan on the court at all in the fourth was a head-scratcher, to be honest.) The Spurs could have won this game … but it wasn’t really due to anything Pop did.