The NBA is a superstar league, and Giannis Antetokounmpo is a superstar player in the best sense of the word, a human who makes the players around him better, but who can also take over the game at any moment and put the ball in the hoop whenever he wants to. With Khris Middleton to hit the midrange shots, and the versatility of Brook Lopez, the Bucks are a championship contending team, and the talent gap with the young and short-handed Silver and Black was a deep abyss, which the Spurs tried to bridge by playing with energy and a scrappy attitude.
It was a strategy that kept San Antonio in the game for much of the first half, even though the Spurs turned over the ball in bunches and fouled like fouling was going out of style, they were only down by a few points late in the second quarter. That was about the time that Giannis took over, dominating the game for the last few minutes before halftime and extending though the first part of the third, leading a 26-7 run that put the game out of reach. Giannis went to the bench midway through the third as Middleton, Lopez, and Bobby Portis completed the rout over the Spurs who were just overmatched by the bigger, longer, and more talented Bucks.
The Spurs got some solid performances from Zach Collins, Jeremy Sochan and Mamukelashvili. Julian Champagnie has a very nice looking shot, and he could fulfill a bench scorer role with some seasoning. There were 5 Spurs in double figures, but you aren’t going to beat many teams in the NBA scoring less that 100, and tonight, they only scored 94. This was a good measure of where the Spurs are now, and how they measure up against the best team in the league, and they have a long way to go to become competitive.
The Bucks opened the scoring with a Middleton drive to the middle, and while the Spurs were scrappy, with Zach Collins even wining a jump ball against Giannis, cold shooting let Milwaukee build up an early 13-6 lead. The Spurs looked like they might get back into it, but early foul trouble put Collins and Sochan on the bench, and the Bucks looked like they were going to run away with it. It wasn’t to be, as the scrappy Spurs fought back with their bench and finished with an eight point run to trail 28-33 after one quarter.
Zach Collins picked up his third foul early in the second quarter, but Pop let him play, and somehow the Spurs worked their way back to just two points down 44-46 late in the quarter. The Spurs were fouling everything that moved, and turning the ball over like a Magic 8 Ball, but somehow, they weren’t losing ground to the Bucks, who went cold shooting and were missing their free throws. But they ran out of luck late in the quarter as the Bucks went on a 15-2 run to finish out the quarter and lead 66-51 at the half.
Collins re-entered the game after half, and immediately had an impact scoring on a putback of a Malaki Branham. Unfortunately, he also picked up his fourth foul on the next trip down the court, and had to sit early. The Spurs played physical ball, but they had no answer for Giannis, who took over in the third, showing off a series of Eurosteps and ferocious dunks as the Bucks lead was extended to 24. Once again, the Bucks closed the quarter on a run, and let 100-72 after three.
Brook Lopez, who had been held in check offensively for much of the game, got uncorked as the fourth started, with a layup and a deep three to give the Bucks their biggest lead of the game. With a 30+ point lead, the Bucks were in cruise control to finish the game, and ended up winning 130-94.
- It’s the point in the season where I start to run out of things to say. I mean, how many more times do you want to hear about ping pong balls? Personally, I’m done talking about them until May 16, when they actually draw and announce the picks. Mostly, it’s just about how much I appreciate the players, the coaches and the staff, who are all super fun to watch, even through a season that’s mostly losses.
- I almost forgot about Sandro Mamukelashvili’s connection to the Bucks. He had an interesting conversation with Dan Weiss in the pre-game, and explained why he only has tatoos on one side of his body: partly an agreement with his parents to not ink one side, and also to represent his two sided nature, beast on the court, nice guy off it. Pretty cool stuff.
- It’s really impressive to see how much Blake Wesley has improved in his rookie year. He’s still pretty raw, but you can tell that he’s learning how to use his speed to not just run into coverage, but to create opportunities for the offense. I can’t wait to see how good he’s going to be next season.
- Gorgui Dieng had to enter the game early due to Collins’ foul trouble, and he looked ... well, not terrible. He hit a pair of threes had a terrific block. He’s still one of the slowest players in the league, but he had one of his better games tonight.
- In the first half, it just seemed like the Buck were in cruise control, keeping the Spurs at arm’s length. I just kind of kept waiting for them to engage a higher gear. I didn’t have to wait too long, because Giannis found the stick shift late in the first half and jammed in into high as the Bucks took advantage of the Spurs mistakes for a 15-2 run going into halftime.
- One of the Spurs turnovers was when Jeremy Sochan took a step and just seemed to lose control for a second. He didn’t leave the game, but it really looked to me like he might have had a pang in his knee which made him misstep. I honestly think he should probably sit out more of the season if this sort of thing can happen. As much as I love watching the guy, he needs to be healthy for the long term, the games this season really don’t matter that much.
- Bobby Portis is someone I always wanted on the Spurs. He’s a guy who really plays hard, and doesn’t complain about coming off the bench. I’m still confused as to how he missed so many free throws tonight, but that was the only flaw in his game tonight.
- Joe Ingles has never looked like an NBA player, but he really plays like one.
For the Bucks fans’ perspective, please visit Brew Hoop.
The Spurs will play again on Friday night against the Wizards, and with a 6:00 PM start time, you can split your time between watching the Spurs and March Madness.