The Spurs played a great first half en route to a 117-110 victory over the Bucks in Milwaukee. After dropping four of five games, the Spurs have rebounded nicely winning their last seven in a row. Their seven game win-streak is currently the longest in the NBA and will be put to the test tomorrow night as the Spurs take on the New York Knicks in a dreaded FOGAFINI.
Tonight's game was not as close as the score would indicate. The Bucks stayed within striking distance throughout the second half, but the Spurs never allowed them to get too close. The Bucks cut the lead to nine points with 10 minutes remaining in the fourth, but the Spurs quickly answered with an 8-0 run to take the momentum back. From there, the teams traded baskets until Pop finally sat his starters up 115-102 with 1:28 remaining. The Bucks managed to get within nine points during the last 88 meaningless seconds, but the game was never in serious jeopardy.
The Spurs came out strong scoring 69 first half points, 33 in the first quarter and 36 in the second, to take command of the game. It was a very impressive team performance. It was one of the best halves I've seen the Spurs play thus far this season. To be fair, the Bucks did not play poorly at all, scoring a respectable 52 first half points and hitting 110 for the game. Their energy was high and they were not shooting poorly nor making bad decisions. In fact, many of them looked impressive throughout the game. The Bucks simply could not keep pace with the finally healthy Spurs.
The Spurs' ball movement resulted in many open shots and it didn't hurt that Tim finished the first half with 20 points. Tim had yet another typical night: 28 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, three blocks and a steal. It was an expected performance out of the future hall of famer, and the Spurs used it to ensure victory in a hostile arena.
As was just mentioned, the Bucks played a pretty good ball game. Brandon Jennings led them with 31 points while Monta Ellis pitched in 18. In addition, this skinny, tall kid off their bench had the game of his life, yet the Spurs overcame all of this to win comfortably.
The skinny kid's name is John Henson. He made 10 of his 11 shots for 20 points, had nine rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block. Let me quickly warn Milwaukee; this is a guy that the Spurs will try to steal. Whenever a player has a breakout game against the Spurs, PATFO always takes notice and CIA Pop deploys his minions on secret missions to steal said player. Oh, and by the way, this Henson fellow is 6'11", 22 years old, can jump out of the gym, finished well with either hand, showed he can make the 15 footer and also rotated well defensively. Milwaukee, you've been warned.
For the Silver and Black, it seemed as if everyone contributed towards the win. The Spurs were led to victory by Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. The Frenchman finished with 23 points and 11 assists. Manu came off the bench to contribute 16 points and six rebounds.
I think the most gratifying thing about this win was that the Bucks played long, athletic, aggressive defense against the Spurs and San Antonio did not let it take them out of their offense. In terms of physicality, the game was reminiscent of the Spurs' most recent road losses to Utah, OKC and Denver. The difference was that the Spurs were able to match the physicality of the Bucks because this time Pop had a healthy Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Jackson to play.
In those previous road losses, the Spurs' backcourt was pushed around. The undersized, undermanned Spurs kept the ship afloat for as long as possible, but eventually succumbed to the physicality of the bigger, longer, more aggressive teams.
It's one thing for a 3-guard to push around Gary Neal. Try that same tactic against The Big Island or Capt Jack and what you saw in Milwaukee will be the result. Especially with the addition of Tiago Splitter to Pop's starting lineup, the Spurs with Leonard and Jax are no longer a pushover. This healthy Spurs team showed the fight that I didn't see in those road losses, and that's very exciting to me. After we steal that Henson kid, just imagine the potential of the Spurs' defense.
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