The Milwaukee Bucks appear to be rounding into some sort of shape just as 2023 is wrapping up. The Bucks made the biggest splash of the off-season when traded for Damian Lillard just as training camp was starting up. It’s taken a while for him develop chemistry with Giannis Antetokoumpo and the rest of his new teammates after spending his entire career with the Portland Trail Blazers, but the fruits of their labor are starting to show. At 19-7, they currently occupy 2nd place in the Eastern Conference standings and have the third best record in the NBA overall. Questions and concerns still remain, many of which won’t be answered until the playoffs roll around, but for now they’re trending in the right direction.
Meanwhile, the Spurs took a step back in the wrong direction their last game. After snapping their 18-game losing streak last Friday night against the Lakers, San Antonio found themselves right back where they had been during the losing streak with a blowout loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. Going on the road isn’t easy for most NBA teams, but any venue has proven challenging for these young Spurs this season. To top it off, they’ll be without rookie phenom Victor Wembanyama, who is out with an ankle injury. They’ll need a 110% effort and a prayer to take two steps forward and get the win tonight at Fiserv Forum, where the Bucks are currently 14-2.
San Antonio Spurs (4-21) at Milwaukee Bucks (19-7)
December 19 2023 | 7:00 PM CT
Watch: BSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: Victor Wembanyama, ankle (OUT), Charles Bassey, out for the year
Bucks Injuries: Malik Beasley, sickness (day to day), Jae Crowder, recent surgery (OUT), TyTy Washington Jr, ankle (day to day)
What to watch for
- With Wembanyama out tonight with that sore ankle, he’ll miss what was sure to be yet another test during his rookie season. Instead, Antetokoumpo will likely put on a show by himself. The 3-point shooting is still nonexistent and the FT consistency still comes and goes, but he’s 3rd in the league in scoring with 31 PPG on a ridiculous 62% from the field. A 64 point performance against the Indiana Pacers last Wednesday was not only the highest in a game yet this season, but is also the highest scoring game by a single player in Milwaukee Bucks history.
- The guy who Victor would have stood across from during the opening tip, Brook Lopez, would probably have been his main match-up. The 35-year old Lopez is actually tied with Wembanyama for the league-lead in blocks per game (3.0) and has 19 total blocks in his last 5 games, compared to 21 for Wemby (!!!).
- Damian Lillard had a slow start to his tenure in Milwaukee, especially with his shot and conditioning. It looks like he’s rounding into form though, as December has been a great month for him thus far. He’s shooting 46/44/90 in the month to go along with 26 points, 5 rebounds, and nearly 8 assists a game (7.7). He’s coming off a game Sunday where he went 11/19 overall and 5/8 from beyond the arc, matching a season-high 39 points in Milwaukee’s win over the Houston Rockets.
- Malaki Branham’s double digit scoring streak continued in the loss to the Pelicans, bringing his current season-long streak to 5 games. Can he notch his 6th straight tonight against the Bucks?
- The Spurs made New Orleans, the 15th ranked offense in the league based on Offensive efficiency, look like the 80s Denver Nuggets Sunday afternoon. For comparison, Milwaukee ranks 3rd in this stat with a mark of 121.3. The Spurs will need their Laker game defense to show up on the road tonight if they are to have any chance of slowing the Bucks down. That becomes exponentially harder with Wembanyama out.
For the Bucks fan’s perspective, please visit Brew Hoop.
If you’d like to, you may follow along with the game on our Twitter profile (@poundingtherock) or visit our Game Thread!