In what has to be considered their most impressive home win of the season, the San Antonio Spurs dominated the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night. The good guys caught fire early and were able to stay hot enough to keep the Bucks at bay. When the fiesta was over, San Antonio had a 146-125 victory.
Offensively, the Spurs were decisive, unselfish and stuck to the gameplan. Of course, it didn’t hurt that San Antonio nailed 17-of-29 three-point attempts. Defensively, the Spurs competed, were much more physical than they’ve been of late and made it a point to hit the boards with ferocity.
With three minutes remaining in the first quarter, the game was tied at 31-31. In the next ten minutes, the Spurs detonated on their way to an entertaining 41-18 run. Milwaukee kept playing hard but the Spurs had answer after answer to thwart any and all comebacks the Bucks attempted.
The Spurs scored a franchise record 87 points in the first half. There were a lot of notable numbers tonight but that mark has to take the cake.
Spurs vs. Bucks: Final Grades
Great game by Murray. His passing was outstanding and his orchestrating of pick-and-rolls was masterful. The Spurs haven’t seen pick-and-roll play with that much precision since Tony Parker many moons ago. Murray’s jumper also looked a lot better. His brainy play carried over to the defensive end as well. He was solid individually and team-wise while expertly picking his spots to be disruptive.
Coming off of a rough outing, Poeltl improved mightily. Most noticeably, he was sturdy in the paint and held his ground extremely well. It was especially impressive because he did so without fouling. Both in terms of rebounding and rim protection, the Big Wiener was extremely reliable. Offensively, Poeltl’s passing was shockingly good, as evidenced by his career-high eight assists. His rolling after setting screens was as purposeful as ever.
The good: When the dizzying array of three-point bombs needed moments to reload, DeRozan supplied some timely hoops. His passing was decent and his hardheaded drives drew a lot of contact. Defensively, he was nothing to write home about but was probably a little bit better than normal. The bad: DeRozan spent a lot of time complaining to the refs. Many of his five turnovers were due to him trying to tantrum his way to the line. He passed up a ton of open threes. Even when he decided to launch from distance, DeRozan stepped on the three-point line as if he was defiantly against joining the three-point party.
Lonnie Walker IV
The good: Walker’s aggression and confidence was palpable and seemed to rub off on his teammates. From creating shots off of screens to slithering forays into the paint, he displayed a varied arsenal on the offensive end. When times got tough, he was their to bail the team out on a number of occasions. The bad: Walker’s defense left quite a bit to be desired. His switching was oftentimes slow or just plain wrong. Offensively, he missed open teammates a few times but thankfully it didn’t matter too much with how well he was shooting.
Johnson played a very important role in this blowout win over the Bucks. He was the main defender against the Greek Freak and he did really well. He bodied him up without fouling too much, got back in transition quickly and boxed out like a madman. On the other end, Johnson made Giannis Antetokounmpo work by authoring relentless battering ram-esque assaults into the lane. That led to the two-time MVP getting in foul trouble early, which seemed to throw off his rhythm and the Bucks rhythm just enough.
Welcome back, Patty. After a 12-game stretch that saw Mills average 4.4 points on 25.4% shooting from the field and 22.6% on threes, he picked a great time to rejoin the Spurs. I’m not sure where he’s been hiding but this looked like the guy from the first half of the season. Sure, his barrage of three-pointers is what will be remembered but Mills’ overall activity level was also night and day.
Gay has quietly put together a string of strong games. Tonight, he joined a rejuvenated Mills in spearheading the bench unit. Gay picked his spots well by either taking advantage of mismatches or firing away when given an open look. He was also feisty on the defensive end. He rebounded well and used his length and quick reflexes to make plays.
Vassell was in a good groove. He had a couple mistakes here and there but he was mostly an asset on both ends. Defensively, his rotations were lightning fast and he kept his arms in the passing lanes. Offensively, the rookie played with moxie and didn’t shy away when his first couple possessions didn’t go as planned.
Eubanks didn’t get a whole lot of time to shine but he helped keep the positive mojo flowing. He was physical on both ends, rebounded well and remained alert.
Pop’s Xs and Os were some of his best of the season. On offense, the Spurs took full advantage of the fact that the Bucks tend to play drop coverage and are willing to give up three-pointers. Additionally, in a cruel twist of fate, Pop repeatedly called plays that took advantage of Bryn Forbes’ defense, or lack thereof. On defense, the Spurs dared Antetokounmpo to shoot jumpers but swarmed him with two or even three defenders when he got the ball in the paint. When the Greek Freak didn’t have the ball, the gameplan was to hug three-point shooters navigating around screens to force them to drive — and that strategy paid dividends, too.
Can the Spurs use this win as a springboard to finish this season off in style? We’ll soon find out as San Antonio has a difficult two-game road trip against the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.