After a disappointing second half in Milwaukee on Saturday night, the Spurs won’t have to wait long to get a second shot against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks. San Antonio hung in for much of the 1st half, even holding a 12-point advantage early in the first quarter before Milwaukee closed the quarter on a run, setting themselves up for an explosive 42 points in the 2nd quarter alone.
If they want to protect home court and get a bit of quick revenge tonight, the Spurs will have to clean up a lot of the things that have plagued them at their lowest points for most of the year.
Milwaukee Bucks (32-5) vs. San Antonio Spurs (14-20)
January 6, 2020 | 7:30 PM CT
Watch: FSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: None
Bucks Injuries: None
The Bucks’ Defensive Philosophy
While the all-around exploits of the Greek Freak and their multi-pronged offensive attack garner much of the headlines, Milwaukee’s defensive prowess is just as responsible for their league-leading record. Milwaukee is holding teams to just 101.8 points per 100 possessions, 2.3 points lower than the next closest team, the Toronto Raptors.
A big reason for that mark, believe it or not, is due to the play of Brook Lopez. Brook has typically been seen as more of an offensive player throughout his career, while his twin brother (and teammate) Robin has been seen as a limited offensive player but a superior defender to his brother. Milwaukee, though, has built their defensive philosophy around what Brook is capable of doing. In an article from last season over at Brew Hoops, writer Brian Sampson wrote about Lopez’s qualities as a defender:
“Lopez’s strengths as a defender far outweigh his weaknesses. He’s extremely smart, he’s disciplined, he’s a big body, and he’s very long. This combination makes it extremely difficult for teams to score in the area that’s supposed to be the easiest: at or around the rim. Thanks in large part to Lopez, the Bucks sport the lowest opponent field goal percentage in the restricted area at 56.3 percent.”
That number is down to 53.6% this season, nearly 4 percentage points better than the next team (once again, the Toronto Raptors, 57.5%). This prowess in the restricted area was on full display last night during one stretch in the 3rd quarter where Lopez came away with 3 blocks in a span of 32 seconds, but the Spurs struggled all night to score both in the restricted area and the paint as a whole:
With all that length inside, the Spurs will need to find ways to manufacture easy buckets at the rim tonight to help them keep pace with the Bucks.
Paging LaMarcus Aldridge
After a first quarter in which he lit the Bucks up for 14 points on 4/5 shooting from the field (all from beyond the arc), LaMarcus Aldridge somehow finished the game with just 16 total points, going just 1/9 the rest of the way and 0/3 from beyond the arc. That just cannot happen in a 9-point game where the Bucks’ starters outscored the Spurs’ starters by 18.
Aldridge is finally starting to extend his range, but the Spurs will need their big man at his all-around best if they want to have any shot at beating the better teams in the NBA.
Will Lonnie Walker continue to start going forward?
Lonnie Walker IV got the first start of his career on Saturday night over Bryn Forbes, while Derrick White started in place of Dejounte Murray, who missed the game for personal reasons but is expected to return tonight. Walker didn’t fare much better this game than Forbes has most of the year in terms of shooting the basketball, going just 3/12 from the field and missing all 3 of his attempts from beyond the arc, but the athletic intangibles and possibilities he brings to the table are sorely lacking across much of this roster.
Getting his first career start is a huge thing for a player. Hopefully Walker will continue to get opportunities to show what he can do in a larger role.
Vegas Line: Bucks by 7
For the Bucks fans’ perspective, visit Brew Hoop.
PtR’s Gamethread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.