Spurs vs. Bucks Give and Go Preview
The Spurs take on the Bucks tonight at the AT&T Center without the services of a number players. Kawhi Leonard, Stephen Jackson, Danny Green and Patty Mills will all be out with various injuries. Expect a lot of small ball and Boris Diaw at the 3. To preview the night’s game, we invited Jeremy Schmidt of Bucksketball to give us some inside info on San Antonio’s opponents.
Jeremy Schmidt, Bucksketball: I HAVE ALL OF THE ANSWERS
Andrew McNeill, 48 Minutes of Hell: Spurs-Bucks
Apparently, Larry Sanders will start against the Spurs. To you, good move?
JS: Scott Skiles wanted him to start against the Celtics last Saturday and he declined the opportunity. He said he was more comfortable coming off the bench. If he can play in the starting lineup the way he has been playing off the bench, it’ll be a great move. If he loses his mojo by starting, then it’s a bummer.
AM: Well, he’s going to go up against a Spurs team missing Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Stephen Jackson. That means either three-guard lineups or unexplosive, undersized big men. Sometimes both. I’m predicting 54 blocks for him tonight.
JS: He has 22 over his last three games. I’m afraid he might be out of blocks. I’m also afraid Tim Duncan will foul him out in three minutes.
AM: Good point. Tim Duncan loves athletic guys who love to go for pump-fakes. I’m adjusting my prediction to two blocks and six fouls.
JS: How is Jackson working out by the way? I did some looking into it the other day and I’m confident he was the worst player in the Bucks franchise history.
AM: Jackson is working out great. The Spurs are really the only team that can harnass the volatile nature of Jack, thanks to the Popovich-Duncan-Ginobili-Parker combo. He knows his role and has a lot of respect for everybody involved, so he falls in line pretty easily. His salary far outweighs his prodution, but on this franchise that’s not such a big deal, especially when he’s in the last year of his contract.
JS: He did not have the same sort of respect for Scott Skiles, that’s for sure.
AM: Between Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings, what is the Bucks’ preferred way of scoring the ball? Who do the Spurs gameplan to stop first and foremost?
JS: The Bucks PREFERRED way of scoring, is transition. Those two do a lot of stealing and running, especially Jennings. And Jennings has gotten pretty good at handling a fast break – knowing when to pass, when to shoot, when to pull it back. Otherwise, mid-range jumpers have been the go-to move for the Bucks this season. I say the Spurs have to gameplan to stop Ellis first, as most of the action is run through him making decisions on the wing.
AM: The Spurs will give the Bucks all the mid-range jumpers they want tonight. “Please, help yourself.”
JS: They’ll probably get as many extra servings as they can get. Milwaukee’s not much of a 3-point shooting team and has struggled with teams that are hitting from deep. Is this a concern I should have?
JS: Even sans Green, Jackson and Leonard?
AM: Well, the Spurs aren’t shooting great from 3-point range. Not as great as last season. But they’re still good. And with Gary Neal and others capable of going off at any point, they’re always a threat. Even if they’re not a top-5 3-point shooting team right now, that’s still a shot they work to get and will take it at will.
JS: Depressing. The Bucks have been lazy more often than I would have thought coming into the season when defending the 3. But Luc Mbah a Moute’s back, so maybe that can move forward a little more tonight. This will be his third game back. He was very good in his first and very active in his second. All over the offensive glass.
AM: Are the Bucks a good team attacking the offensive glass?
JS: Not especially, but Mbah a Moute could make a difference there. If Ersan Ilyasova could earn some more minutes and regain his historic abilities, he could make an impact there too. But he’s tough to project. They’ve been a great defensive rebounding team all season, so there’s that.
AM: The Spurs have been fairly lackluster keeping opposing teams off the offensive glass. It’s one of the places the Bucks could exploit if they set their minds to it.
JS: One of the issues is that Ekpe Udoh, who gets a good number of center/power forward minutes, is a great defender, but poor rebounder. And VERY poor offensive rebounder. He seems to loathe the acquisition of stats.
AM: Outside of having trouble defending 3-point shooters, how are the Bucks defensively?
JS: Very good at blocking shots and forcing turnovers. They’re the 12th ranked defensive team in the league and that probably adds up pretty well. They aren’t allowing a ton of shots at the rim and they do a pretty good job of forcing teams into mid-range shots. But the threes are a big deal.
AM: I’m getting the impression that the Spurs will be able to manipulate the Bucks into allowing whatever shot San Antonio wants.
JS: Well, the Bucks have played pretty well in San Antonio the last few years. Plus, they got up pretty well for games against the Heat, Bulls and Celtics this season. Milwaukee could be one of those teams that plays up or down to the level of its competitor. Too early to tell, but this season has the making of that.
AM: With Jennings, what’s your opinion of him? Correct me if I’m wrong, but Milwaukee’s window to extend Jennings passed without the Bucks offering him. How good of a player is he right now? Err, maybe not offering him, but without extending him.
JS: You’re correct, they couldn’t work out a deal. There were negotiations for sure, but nothing got solved. He’s a pretty good player, he was okay last season and he’s as good this season as he was last. He’d be a much better player if he could consistently hit 3s and make his floater with regularity. He’s getting better at the floater, but he’s still inconsistent with the 3. But he’s still a low turnover guy and he’s doing better and better in transition. But I don’t think he’s much better than any other above average point guard. There are a ton of those out there.
AM: How much has he improved in his career? Can you see the growth each year?
JS: Yeah, he’s improved every season incrementally, but we’re not talking those huge, obvious steps. Remember when Tony Parker was that guy who couldn’t shoot? So he just said, “Screw 3s, I can’t be stopped from getting in the paint.” That was probably pretty cool. We certainly haven’t seen a leap like that from Jennings. Maybe we will eventually, but it seems unlikely.
What do you think of Monta Ellis?
AM: Volume shooter who’s a better playmaker than he gets credit for. Pretty “meh” defensive player.
JS: Yeah that seems fair.
AM: What about you?
JS: It’s a bummer to watch him be THE featured offensive player on a team you watch every night. I’ll just leave it at that.
AM: Yeah, he would probably be great as a second banana on a team with a dominant big man.
JS: Maybe. I think he needs to be more of a sixth man type. I don’t really know that he’s for sure any better than Lou Williams. Just plays with more volume.
AM: Right on. Alright, before I let you go, I need one prediction from you for tonight’s game. Something that has nothing to do with the final score.
JS: Ersan Ilyasova will have over 13 points. I don’t know why, but I feel it for him tonight.