In hindsight, this one was over before it even started. The Bucks are surprisingly the worst team in the terrible East after being ravaged by injuries. The Spurs were on SEGABABA but rested after routing the Raptors. It was as predictably lopsided as everyone imagined it would be.
After a few outings in which they didn't look all that fluid on offense, the starters executed beautifully at the beginning of the game. Even the sometimes predictable two-man game between Parker and Duncan was creating wide open looks that Timmy was having no problem converting. It's hard to say how much of it was the Spurs' doing and how much was the responsibility of a Bucks team playing some of the worst help defense I've seen this season, but the numbers reflected San Antonio's dominance early. After a 27-10 run to start the game, I was excited to see the bench come in and blow it wide open.
In a role reversal of sorts, the subs - who had carried the team to victory the night before in Toronto - weren't clicking on offense. The repeated turnovers, likely caused by understandable overconfidence, kept the Bucks alive. Milwaukee might not be the most talented team out there, but they do have NBA-caliber players on their roster and their bench showed some fight to start the second quarter. Nate Wolters, Luke Ridnour and Giannis Antetokounmpo started a run of their own to trim the deficit all the way down to eleven points.
But when the Spurs' starters returned and went back to executing, the potential comeback started to seem beyond unlikely. The talent gap proved to be too great, as Duncan and Parker seemed determined on crushing whatever hope the Bucks still had. With Bonner spacing the floor and Green and Leonard remaining active on defense, the Spurs continued to hurt the Bucks on both ends. Going into the break the Spurs were up 23, 63-40.
There was very little of note going on in the second half. In the very first play of the third quarter, Kawhi Leonard stole the ball and went all the way to the rim for a breakaway dunk, erasing all doubts about the Spurs' focus. After a couple sloppy offensive possessions by both teams, the good guys stepped on the gas again and the lead quickly cleared the 30-point mark. Pop started emptying the bench in the third quarter and with 9:27 to go in the fourth, Nando De Colo subbed in for Manu Ginobili, signifying the unofficial end of the game.
- No Splitter (calf tightness) or Baynes (sprained ankle) for this game, but Jeff Ayres made their absence go unnoticed on his second consecutive start. There was nothing particularly impressive about his performance, but he crashed the offensive boards against the inattentive Bucks bigs and did a solid job on defense.
- There was nothing the Bucks could do to stop Duncan. Udoh was too slow to recover on pick and pops and Henson was too light on the post. So Timmy punished them consistently to the tune of 21 points on 9-12 shooting to go with his 16 rebounds, three assists and two blocks.
- Tony Parker also feasted on the Christmas Deer. He got wherever he wanted to on the floor, and his 15 points and 5 assists in a little over 20 minutes reflect that.
- It's really hard to take away anything of value from such a lopsided game. The role players all looked great, but that's to be expected in a blow out like this one. No one played more than 28 minutes, so that's good.
- It's also hard to say anything positive about the Bucks after this game. When fully healthy, they are better than they were tonight and could still make the playoffs in the East. But it would really benefit them to bottom out this season and try their luck in the lottery. There is a young core in place already with Larry Sanders, John Henson, Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo, but they still need a franchise player to build around and this upcoming draft might be their best chance to get one.
- As TD21 pointed out to me in the comments, Tim Duncan tried to check himself back in the game in the fourth quarter but Pop was having none of it.
The Hall-of-Famers are really having fun on the bench this season.
The Spurs now stand at 17-4 and will return home to host the Timberwolves on Friday.
For the opponent's perspective visit Brew Hoop