The Spurs hung tight with Milwaukee for the better part of four quarters, but the shorthanded Bucks showed their championship pedigree, pulling away late to dispatch San Antonio, 121-111, in their first SEGABABA of the season.
Doug McDermott led the Spurs with 25 points, closely followed by 20 points from Keldon Johnson. Khris Middleton paced the Bucks with 28 points while Giannis stuffed the stat sheet to the tune of 21 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists.
- Three-point shooting has been a bugaboo for the Silver and Black through three games this season, and they continued that trend tonight, going 10-of-39 from beyond the arc. Shots weren’t finding their mark. However, it was encouraging to see San Antonio let it fly on the perimeter. General manager Brian Wright made a concerted effort to bolster the team’s long-range shooting this offseason, and head coach Gregg Popovich looks on board with increasing their three-point volume in an attempt to modernize their offense.
- With the size of your average center, top-tier athleticism, and guard-like handles, Giannis Antetokounpo is the human embodiment of a 2K cheat code. The Greek Freak is unlike anyone we’ve ever seen come through the league, and he put his unique skills on display, swatting Keldon at the rim on one possession and then turning right around to put the ball on the floor and breaking out a one-legged fadeaway on the next. Yet the most intriguing aspect of 26-year-old forward’s package is the inescapable gravitational pull generated by the immense pressure he puts on the rim.
- Doug McDermott had the hot hand early, knocking down a trifecta of three-pointers on his way to 11 points in the opening frame. The veteran forward put on a masterclass in off-ball movement, never sitting still for a moment and tirelessly working his way around the court in search of high-quality shots. McBuckets fell silent in the middle of the game but ramped things up a notch when the Spurs started falling behind in the fourth quarter. The sharpshooting veteran finished with a team-high 25 points courtesy of his career-high seven triples.
- Lonnie Walker IV also got in on the first half fireworks, registering 13 points in 14 minutes after subbing for Keldon Johnson, who got into early foul trouble. The six-four swingman has always shown the capacity to score in bunches when dialed in, and he was a lifeline for San Antonio’s second-unit offense. It isn’t uncommon for Lonnie to pull off an athletic feat that leaves jaws on the floor, and he made the impossible look routine when he soared left then switched hands midflight to kiss what initially looked like a hopeless layup off the backboard and into the hoop. A few plays later, Walker gave fans a taste of Deja Vu, replicating his acrobatic finish in a manner indistinguishable from his earlier attempt.
- Jakob Poeltl is quickly establishing himself as one of the better passing big men in the NBA. The sixth-year center entered the contest with just four turnovers while ranking 5th among centers in passes made and assists. And tonight, Poeltl dished out six more dimes to add to his season total. Adding some playmaking prowess to his first-class screen setting, rim-protection, and offensive rebounding will only make him more valuable to San Antonio. It would be nice if the seven-footer could expand his range and finish more bunnies around the basket, but it’s hard to complain when his game is so well-rounded.
- San Antonio continued illustrating their improved defensive activity, forcing the Bucks into 20 turnovers, which they promptly turned into 18 points going the other way. While the Silver and Black came up with several deflections and steals, they had almost no answers for Antetokoumpo. But to be fair, with two regular-season MVP awards to his name, it would appear the rest of the league also struggles to contain him. And despite an impressive stat line, the Spurs did all they could to make Giannis uncomfortable, drawing three offensive fouls by clogging the lane and establishing themselves in a legal guarding position. That said, San Antonio’s communication on switches and rotations wasn’t great tonight, and they can’t afford to let their opponents shoot above 40% from three.
- Tre Jones saw some unusually early action in this one but failed to make much of an impact outside of a pair of points. The second-year floor general proved he was worthy of an NBA opportunity after a stellar Summer League. But an untimely ankle sprain kept him sidelined for most of training camp and all of San Antonio’s tuneups. The season is still young, and as the only other natural point guard on the roster outside of Dejounte Murray, the former Duke Blue Devil has plenty of time to break into the rotation.
- As Sean Elliot frequently mentioned throughout the broadcast, Keldon Johnson has added another dynamic to his game by simply slowing things down from time to time when driving to the hoop. His change of pace combined with improved touch on his floater and noticeably refined footwork has paid dividends for the third-year wing, and he’s been nearly unstoppable inside the paint. And as if that wasn’t enough to bring a smile to the face of every Spurs fan, Keldon has flashed signs of a newfound in-between game, breaking out yet another fadeaway jumper off the glass. The 22-year-old ended the outing with another 20-burger on 9-of-18 from the field, and his Most Improved Player of the Year Award campaign only grows stronger by the day.
- Possessions per game in the traditional measure of pace used by the NBA, but since basketball is a back-and-forth game, that number is highly dependent on your opponent. And it hardly does San Antonio’s breakneck attack any justice. Instead, seconds per offensive possession might be a more accurate barometer for pace, with the Spurs ranking ninth in the league in that statistic. Despite coming off a close contest with the Nuggets less than 24 hours ago, the Silver and Black continued to rapidly push the ball up and down the floor at every chance, putting their young legs to good use. And as long as Pop and company adhere to this fresh playstyle, Spurs fans should be in for some entertaining basketball, win or lose.
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