A night after taking on the reigning MVP, the San Antonio Spurs battled the reigning NBA champions. The Spurs scratched and clawed the entire game but ended up losing to the Milwaukee Bucks, 121-111.
Despite the loss, San Antonio has to be happy with their performance. They competed with vigor on both ends and the Bucks had to play well and shoot well to escape with a victory. The Spurs performed well enough to win against most opponents. Their only glaring flaw was the 3-for-28 three-point shooting by players not named Doug McDermott.
Overall, the Spurs are now 1-2 on the season but they’ve played just about as well as could have been anticipated. It’s too early to say for sure that San Antonio is going to be better than expected this season but early returns look relatively positive.
Spurs vs. Bucks: Final Grades
Poeltl played extremely hard. Defensively, he was very solid against Giannis Antetokounmpo. He moved his feet well and remained about as active as we’ve ever seen him. On offense, Poeltl passed the ball very well, vacuumed up offensive rebounds in traffic and was aggressively looking to contribute by any means possible. Unfortunately, he came up a little short in a few areas. His finishing at the rim was lacking, his hands weren’t as supple as usual and his defensive rebounding could have been better. Poeltl was close to having a memorable game but he was off just enough to somewhat limit his impact.
The good: Murray led the team in rebounding, racked up seven assists without turning the ball over and played really good defense for the most part. There were stretches of time when he got rolling and he was all over the court on both ends. The bad: Murray’s orchestrating of the offense wasn’t precise. His decision-making could have been better and his processing speed could have been faster. Murray also struggled shooting the basketball, which hurt his ability to run the offense because the Bucks sagged off of him.
This is what the Spurs had in mind when they signed Doug McDermott. With the rest of the team misfiring, the free agent signing drained a career-high seven threes. His movement and ability to shoot while leaning and being tightly guarded was impressive. McDermott also had positive plays when taking the ball to the rim. Defensively, the Bucks tried to isolate and attack him but McDermott held up surprisingly well in those situations.
White played another rock solid game. Defensively, he was once again fantastic. From swiping steals with quick hands to drawing offensive fouls to battling in the paint, he was doing it all on that end. Offensively, White passed the ball extremely well and authored a handful of hard-nosed drives to the hoop. His only issue is he wasn’t shooting it well and eventually started passing up shots he needed to take.
Johnson found himself in early foul trouble but he didn’t let that derail his entire evening. His patience and skill while attacking the basket has been a revelation these last two games. For someone who not that long ago relied on kamikaze drives to score, Johnson’s suddenly vast repertoire of Euro steps, floaters and runners is amazing. If he keeps it up, mixes in his bruising drives and remembers how to hit three-pointers, the sky’s the limit for Johnson’s offensive potential.
Lonnie Walker IV
Walker relied on extreme acrobatics to finish at the rim against the Bucks — and it worked out well for him. He utilized his next-level athleticism to get to the paint and was able to finish. Three-point shooting was an issue, though. I didn’t mind Walker’s volume but slight hesitation often caused him to pass up easier looks for more difficult looks. Defensively, Walker was mostly okay. He stayed locked in better than he usually does on that end.
The effort was there and he wasn’t lacking confidence but Vassell was a little bit too out of control on Saturday night. I like when he’s aggressive on offense but he needed to rein it in a little bit. He was also jumpy on defense, which caused a few uncharacteristic mistakes.
After airballing his first attempt and barely drawing iron on his second attempt, Forbes scored his first points of the season when he hit a three-pointer in the third quarter. That was the highlight of his night. The rest of the time, he could usually be found calling for the ball and being frustrated when it wasn’t passed to him. Defensively, he made a couple timely rotations but was otherwise not good.
Milwaukee played a lot of small lineups but Eubanks wasn’t really able to take advantage. He played decently well but considering that he was usually on the court when the Greek Freak was on the bench, a more productive outing from Eubanks would have really helped matters. As it was, Eubanks didn’t have many blatant mistakes but appeared rushed and antsy on both ends.
Jones got a handful of real minutes and was steady. He’s not shy about dribbling against pressure, looking to create shots and pressuring on defense. All of those traits are valuable to this team.
I thought Pop’s rotation was fine. His team was obviously sluggish at times after expending a lot of energy the night before and that necessitated using an extended rotation. Pop mixed and matched well, while also factoring in who the Bucks had on the court. Playing someone struggling as much as Forbes 14 minutes isn’t optimal — but, then again, the Spurs really needed someone who could hit perimeter shots and that’s what Forbes is paid to do.
The Spurs get Sunday and Monday off before playing the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday. The Lakers will be desperate, so that too will be a difficult contest. Hopefully the good guys continue to play well and are able to survive this difficult early season stretch.