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San Antonio vs. Milwaukee, Final Score: Spurs outlast Bucks in low-scoring affair, 102-93

The Silver and Black walk away with a well-deserved dub after a back-and-forth battle with the reigning champions.

San Antonio Spurs v Milwaukee Bucks Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The Spurs traded punches with Milwaukee for three-and-a-half quarters before pulling ahead down the stretch and putting away the Bucks, 102-93, for their second victory of the season. San Antonio finally executed in crunch time, relying on their stifling defense to get the job done.

Dejounte Murray paced the Silver and Black with 23 points and nine assists, closely followed by 17 points from Derrick White and 16 points from Bryn Forbes. Despite foul trouble and seven turnovers, Giannis led the shorthanded Bucks with 28 points and 13 rebounds.

Observations

  • The Spurs were once again without resident sharpshooter Doug McDermott as the veteran nursed a nagging knee injury. Though San Antonio got off to a promising start with four three-pointers in the first quarter, they floundered as the game wore on. The Silver and Black shot 7-of-31 from beyond the arc in this one, and that’ll have to change if they want to keep up with more explosive offenses down the road.
  • Dejounte Murray came into this matchup averaging the fourth-most assists per game (8.8 APG) while sporting the second-best assist-to-turnover ratio in the league. His shooting has been admittedly spotty across San Antonio’s first five contests, but that hasn’t kept him from taking one of the most noticeable playmaking leaps we’ve seen out of Spur in recent memory. Not only did the sixth-year point guard add another nine dimes to his season total, but he stepped up late when the good guys needed a closer, scoring 18 of his 23 points in the final frame. Murray is steadily entering his name into All-Star territory with his nightly stat-stuffing exploits, and that’s a welcome sight for a franchise in need of a go-to guy.
  • As a two-time MVP, five-time All-Star, and perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the few unstoppable two-way forces in professional basketball. Yet somehow, San Antonio, a team seemingly lacking a Giannis stopper, has done an extraordinary job of smothering the superstar forward. In two contests against the Spurs, the Greek Freak is averaging 24.5 points, 6.5 turnovers, and 4.5 personal fouls, a far cry from his usual production.
  • San Antonio’s second unit has been a staple of the organization since Gregg Popovich took over head coaching duties early in 1996. Their bench has ranked top five in the league in point differential on 13 occasions over that stretch, by far the most of any team. However, their second unit is a net negative for the first time since 1998. Of course, there’s still plenty of time for the Spurs to get back on track, and Saturday night was a step in the right direction. With Derrick White and Jakob Poeltl assuming starting roles and Lonnie Walker IV and Devin Vassell receiving an influx of minutes following the departure of several veterans, a lack of continuity was always going to hamper their early efforts to get on the same page. The eventual return of Doug McDermott should their cause.
  • Thaddeus Young has been somewhat of an awkward fit, which probably explains why the veteran has played sparingly up to this point, at least to a certain extent. After a pocket pass clanked right off his body only seconds after checking into the game for the first time, Thad immediately turned things around with a pair of gorgeous assists to Tre Jones and Dejounte Murray. His rather unexpected appearance was primarily due to Jakob Poeltl finding himself in early foul trouble. But perhaps a solid showing against the reigning champions might make Pop think about inserting him into the rotation in some capacity.
  • Stingy defense has been San Antonio’s calling card early this season. And they continued making their opponents uncomfortable, holding Giannis to 11 points and forcing him into four turnovers in the first half. The first 24 minutes weren’t a fluke, as the Spurs pestered Giannis and threw the rest of the Bucks out of rhythm. Milwaukee struggled to find ways to generate easy offense and ultimately coughed up the rock 21 times. They also ended the evening with a season-low 93 points, 21 points less than their season average.
  • With a much-needed victory, the Spurs avoided their worst six-game start in franchise history. This dub was an undeniable breath of fresh air after several close losses, but they still have a ton of ground to make up if they want to bring their record above .500. San Antonio has 76 games left to prove doubters wrong, so let’s see if they can gain a little momentum.
  • Despite a 1-4 record to start the season, the Spurs were incredibly competitive against a grueling slate of opponents that included the Bucks, Nuggets, Lakers, and Mavericks. They were within striking distance in each of those matchups but failed to perform down the stretch. That’s not all that shocking considering young teams tend to struggle to close out games, and this is the youngest team of the Popovich era. San Antonio was dead last in +/- during crunch time heading into this contest, hitting just 28.6% of their shots in the clutch. The Silver and Black found themselves in another tight tilt against Milwaukee on Saturday, but this time they took care of business with the game on the line.

For the Bucks fans’ perspective, please visit Brew Hoop.

The San Antonio Spurs return to action on Monday as they square off with the Indiana Pacers on the final stop of their three-game road trip.