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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Milwaukee Bucks

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From the Beard to the deer, the Spurs head up to the icy Midwest to face the Bucks. They'll have to do so without starting point guard Tony Parker, who's staying back in Texas to rest up for the team's upcoming two-game homestand.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio Spurs @ Milwaukee Bucks

BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI
January 4 2016, 7:00 p.m. Spurs Time
TV: FSSW/NBA TV - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI

The symbol for the NBA's variance and unpredictability might as well be a 12-point stag. Milwaukee's gold and green logo was a box score Rorschach test for the 2015 portion of the season, at times resembling a lively creature capable of causing damage when met head-on, and other times looking more like a mounted trophy.

The Bucks backed up their streak-ending upset of Golden State last month with a well-fought encore in Oakland a week later. Although they ultimately gave that one away, they showcased the ability to challenge the league's best, with or without the help of novelty T-shirts.

Milwaukee's also lost 21 games in convincing enough fashion that the idea of jettisoning Greg Monroe (the franchise's biggest free agent signing to date) has already been floated around in a podcast or two (it might have been Nate Duncan or Danny Leroux that suggested it). The Bucks have failed to integrate Monroe defensively thus far, and identity issues seem to weigh more than win-loss numbers during a young rebuilding core's seminal years. The idea of trading off a marquee signing so early isn't especially palatable for most teams, but his contract structure (the third year is a player option that he could waive given the rising salary cap) might indeed make this the best time to move on if it's apparent that he's not going to be a good fit.

Jason Kidd's guys did start 2016 off right with a feisty victory in Minnesota, where they rallied back after pulling off the longest field-goal drought to start a game since 2006 to win 95-85. In it, O.J. Mayo tried to fight somebody and the Greek Freak lost part of his tooth, while Monroe and John Henson had big games in the paint.

Unfortunately for the Bucks, the Spurs are coming off an impressive win of their own and might be a better team than the one that beat them by 25 back in San Antonio on December 2nd. The Rockets appear to be in a tailspin season, but they remain a tricky matchup every time the two teams face each other.

What might've made Saturday's win more fun (besides the fact that it was over Houston) was the nature in which the Spurs played. San Antonio overcame Houston's interior length by going through them, with aggressive play when attacking the basket and physicality on the defensive end. They did all this while blitzing Houston with a quintessentially Spursian performance that included fiery three-point shooting and crisp passing (and in spite of Tim Duncan's first career goose egg).

Tony Parker isn't making the trip with the team tonight, and since I haven't yet heard whether Ray McCallum's been called up from Austin, I'm pencilling in Patty as the starting point guard. Regardless of who gets the nod, I think the Spurs have too much for the Bucks to handle in this one, as things should continue to come together in the coming months for the silver and black.

Matchup to watch: Danny Green against Khris Middleton. Green doesn't need to duplicate his six threes from the Rockets win, but that doesn't mean he won't be worthy of a little extra attention from fans eager to see him get back on track. Meanwhile Middleton, another 3 and D guy who got re-signed over the summer, had been struggling with his own shot but has recently gotten hot again.

**Update**

vs

San Antonio Spurs

(Record: 29-6)

Milwaukee Bucks

(Record:14-21)

January 4, 2016

BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI

7:00 PM CDT

TV: FSSW/NBA TV

Starters

Patty Mills*

PG

Michael Carter-Williams

Danny Green

SG

Khris Middleton

Kawhi Leonard

SF

Giannis Antetokounmpo

LaMarcus Aldridge

PF

Jabari Parker

Tim Duncan

C

Greg Monroe

Game prediction: Spurs by 18.

For the Bucks fans' perspective, visit Brew Hoop.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher.