On Saturday, the San Antonio Spurs were defeated by the Milwaukee Bucks on the road by a final score of 127-118. Tonight, the Spurs play the Bucks again — this time in San Antonio. Overall, the Spurs are 14-20 and have lost two straight games after a two-game winning streak. The Bucks have won five straight and sit at a league-best 32-5.
Despite being at home, the Spurs are still big underdogs in tonight’s affair. Oddsmakers see the Bucks as 8-point favorites and winning by a score of 118-110.
One piece of good news for the Spurs is the return of Dejounte Murray. After missing last game due to personal reasons, Murray is back in action tonight.
How can the Spurs win this game? Let’s look at possible adjustments.
Keep Starting Lonnie Walker IV
Last game against the Bucks, Lonnie Walker IV made his first career start. With the return of Murray, head coach Gregg Popovich might be tempted to go back starting Bryn Forbes. However, the Spurs will be better off if Walker continues to start — regardless of it’s next to Murray or Derrick White, who started last time out in Murray’s absence.
Pop may be hesitant to start Murray next to Walker due to a lack of perimeter shooting. However, the defensive improvement of Walker over Forbes is huge. Plus, even if spacing could be an issue with Murray and Walker in the backcourt, the speed and athleticism boost could more than make up for it.
Keep Giannis Antetokounmpo Out of the Paint
The Spurs did a really good job of this last game. Their strategy was to have LaMarcus Aldridge defend Giannis Antetokounmpo and then sag off of him. The Greek Freak was forced to either take jumpers or suffer a hard foul if he drove to the basket.
The same general gameplan should be used tonight. However, the Spurs should try to swarm Antetokounmpo rather than always fouling him. Sending him to the line 18 times didn’t work out last game, as the Bucks superstar nailed 15 of those attempts.
San Antonio’s best chance of winning is if the Greek Freak has a cold shooting game — so let him keep shooting tonight.
Finish at the Basket Stronger
The Bucks ended last game with ten blocks — seven by Brook Lopez alone. Most of the blocks came on layup attempts or floaters. Tonight, the Spurs need to be more physical going to the paint and turn last game’s blocks into at least free throw attempts.
Handle Eric Bledsoe
Last game, the Spurs — White, in particular — didn’t do well defending Bledsoe. He was the one player who really got away from San Antonio, finishing with 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting from the floor and 4-for-6 from three-point range. Bledsoe also had six assists and played tough defense against the Spurs.
Whoever starts at point guard, whether that’s Murray or White, needs to be more physical with Bledsoe than the Spurs were last game. They also need to pick him up further from the basket and be wary of his spot-up three-pointers.
No More Trio of Death
Due to Murray not being with the team, Pop decided to play the trio of Patty Mills, Bryn Forbes and Marco Belinelli at the same time. As expected, that trio got destroyed on the defensive end for the Bucks.
Tonight, Pop can’t use those three players together. If he must, it’s okay to play two of those three together at the same time.
Spurs vs. Bucks – Prediction
It’s tough to beat teams twice in a row in the regular season. The Spurs also did pretty well in Milwaukee and had areas they could build upon. I’m predicting a one-point shocker for San Antonio assuming Walker still starts and Pop avoids the Mills, Forbes and Belinelli trio.
San Antonio Spurs – 120
Milwaukee Bucks – 119