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A spirited Wemby-less performance isn’t enough as the Spurs fall to Bucks

Keldon Johnson tried his best, but it wasn’t enough for the Spurs to recover from a horror start

San Antonio Spurs v Milwaukee Bucks Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The San Antonio Spurs fought hard with Victor Wembanyama missing, but the Milwaukee Bucks took a 132-119 win thanks to a Damian Lillard 40-point explosion.

Wemby missed just his second game of his rookie season, this time due to right ankle soreness. The 7’4 big man is expected back by the time the Spurs hit the floor next against the Bulls on Thursday in Chicago.

The end result looked like it was going to be much worse than it was after the Spurs missed thirteen straight shots - yes THIRTEEN! - after making their first of the game. This helped the Bucks go on a 21-1 run and take an early double-digit advantage. Tre Jones and Cedi Osman, two of San Antonio’s most trustworthy and consistent players came off the bench and provided some much needed pace to get the Silver & Black some easy buckets. However, the first quarter was all about Dame Time, who chipped in 19 points for the home team which included hitting four triples as Milwaukee had a 44-26 lead at the end of the first interval.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Bobby Portis were hurting the Spurs to start the second by using their size to dominate the paint. Fortunately, the Spurs have their own ‘Big Body’ with Keldon Johnson inserting his dominance around the rim to score six straight in the paint for the visitors. Tre Jones had a nice opening half of basketball for the Spurs as he gave his side some scoring punch with 12 points to keep the Spurs within reach of the Bucks at the half, 72-59.

The Spurs then got off to an uncharacteristically fast start in the third quarter to reduce the deficit to single digits. The Bucks and in particular Damian Lillard then stepped on the pedal to push the lead back out as Dame had over 30 points with more than a quarter and a half still to play. San Antonio weren’t going away easy and were sticking close enough to the Bucks until the home team made a run at the end of the third to all-but put the game away. It was 107-85 heading into the fourth.

It was another quick start to a quarter by the visitors with them playing much more aggressive than the Bucks to open up the fourth and get the lead down to 15. Keldon Johnson was playing a relentless style of basketball, attacking the bigs of the Bucks and not settling for any ill-advised jumpers. The Spurs weren't able to make a last-ditch run at the home team with the Bucks matching San Antonio bucket for bucket and eventually taking home a 132-119 win.

Game Notes

  • Keldon ‘Big Body’ Johnson. KJ probably had his best game of the season against the Bucks. Keldon was in attack mode all game long, taking only one three pointer and getting to the line 12 times in which he converted 10 of them. Johnson hasn’t been bad from beyond the arc this season, hitting 36% of his threes but Keldon’s best attribute is his ability to drive to the rim and score with contact. So it was nice to see KJ attack the paint as often as he did and not bail the opposition out with endless amount of jumpers.
  • The Enforcers. A few scuffles broke out in the fourth quarter and to no one’s surprise it was Jeremy Sochan and Zach Collins that were in the middle of it all. Their target tonight: Bobby Portis. Sochan and Portis each received a technical foul after they got tangled up on a rebound following a few chippy physical exchanges the possession prior. A few minutes later when Portis caught Collins in the face when scoring a layup, Zach made sure to get his own back, running straight into Bobby’s chest for an offensive foul before going to set a screen. It was nice to see both Jeremy and Zach not back down to the veteran-led team and try to insert their physicality on the game.
  • Wemby v Giannis. The Bucks crowd was pretty full tonight with many I’m suspecting having had bought their tickets a while ago imagining they were going to see the first Alien v Greek Freak matchup. With Wembanyama missing, the Bucks fans will have to wait until next season to see Vic in person, while the fans in San Antonio will hope to see that matchup soon when the Bucks come to town to begin the New Year.

Player of the Game

3rd: Zach Collins - 22 points (9/16), 4 threes, 8 rebounds, 3 stocks in 29 minutes

2nd: Tre Jones - 14 points (7/11), 5 assists, 1 steals in 24 minutes

1st: Keldon Johnson - 28 points (9/13), 10 free throws made, 12 rebounds in 35 minutes

Play Of The Game

A beautiful jab-step backdoor cut from Dev:

Next Game: @ Chicago on Thursday

The Spurs take on the Bulls for the second time this season after blowing a double-digit lead earlier this month.