The road has not been a friend to the Spurs this season, as they’ve gone 6-29 away from home. After a blowout loss to the Pelicans in New Orleans, the Silver and Black flew 4 hours to Milwaukee for a matchup against the NBA’s best Bucks. They ran into an absolute buzzsaw.
The Bucks relentlessly attacked the Spurs in the paint, and lit them up from the three point line in a 130 to 94 rout. San Antonio could not overcome their own mistakes, turning the ball over 19 times and letting the Bucks score 26 points in the fast break. Those turnovers broke up any kind of flow the offense could muster, as the Spurs struggled yet again to score in the half court, shooting 38.7% from the field against the best defense in the league.
What offense San Antonio could muster was led by their two young wings, Devin Vassell and Jeremy Sochan. Vassell had an inefficient scoring night, going 5 of 16 from the field and 3 of 9 from range on his way to 16 points. Sochan got into foul trouble and only played 23 minutes, but managed to put up a decent line: 13 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal. Giannis Antetokounmpo was unstoppable, going for 31 points and 14 rebounds in just 24 minutes of play.
San Antonio managed to compete early in the game, attacking the Bucks’ drop defense, and pressuring their ball handlers on defense. Brook Lopez sagged off to the paint when Sochan had the ball on the perimeter, in which he responded by driving right at him for creative finishes. This approach led to him scoring 10 of his 14 points in the first half. Vassell looked comfortable shooting off of the dribble from deep and in the mid range, taking advantage of their drop pick and roll coverage.
The Spurs hung around for most of the first half, until a series of unforced turnovers started to open an opportunity for the Bucks to pull away. Too many times their young guards gave the ball away in the back court, or lost control of their dribble. At one point the Spurs got a backcourt violation turnover off of an inbound pass. The Bucks took advantage of their mistakes, getting out in transition and hitting wide open threes, going on a 15-2 run at the end of the first half to open up a 66-51 lead.
The third quarter belonged to the Greek Freak, who had 11-points in just 6 minutes of play, absolutely dominating the game on both ends. The Spurs had no answer for him, and continued to let the Bucks get out in transition and hit easy open shots. Milwaukee shot 52% from the field and 35% from three in their win. The Bucks moved the ball around, finding holes in the Spurs coverage for 44 assists. San Antonio too often lost track of their man, leading to wide open shots. Combine this with their poor shooting and loose protection of the ball, and all of a sudden they found themselves down 30 to start the 4th, where the score stayed.
The Silver and Black will get a day off before they take on the 32-41 Washington Wizards in their third game of a four-game road trip on Friday night. The Spurs were defeated by the Wizards in their only meeting this year 127-106.
- Sandro Mamukelashvili returned to Milwaukee for the first time since being waived on March 1st. He received a warm welcome from the fans in the Fiserv Forum. Mamu did a little bit of everything for the Spurs tonight, putting up 12 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks in 28 minutes off the bench. He struggled to find his jumper in this game, but made some strong cuts to the basket and competed well on the defensive end guarding ball handlers and big men. The Spurs are playing him a lot down the stretch of the season and he’s won over the fans with solid play. It will be interesting to see if they bring him back this offseason.
- The Spurs rookie guards continued to struggle against Milwaukee. Malaki Branham was -19 in 25 minutes of play, putting up 4 points on 2-7 shooting, and turning the ball over 4 times compared to his 3 assists. Blake Wesley had 6 points on 2-12 shooting off of the bench. After the two of them looked like they had started to hit their stride in February and early-March, they’ve really struggled in the last couple of games. Sean Elliott has brought up the “rookie wall” on the broadcast in reference to the two of them. There is a chance that the marathon of the NBA season is catching up with them in the final miles. The Spurs will need them to go back to being positive contributors if they want to win a few more games before season’s end.
- It’s a bummer that Zach Collins was in foul trouble, because his presence would have been welcomed against the onslaught from the Bucks. Without their starting big man, the Spurs had little to no rim protection, allowing Giannis, Jrue Holiday and Bobby Portis to get to the basket at will. Colins had the best +/- (-11) out of San Antonio’s starters, and put up 12 points, 7 rebounds, a steal, block and assist in 23 minutes of play. He’ll face another stiff matchup against the Wizards when he squares up against Kristaps Porzingis and Daniel Gafford. The Spurs will need him to stay out of foul trouble if they want to make that game close.