Spurs vs. Bucks preview: Where the … oh, poor Bucks.
Update: Jeff Ayres will start again in place of Tiago Splitter; Aron Baynes joins Splitter on the inactive list tonight because of a sprained ankle.
The Spurs rode a major momentum swing after the first quarter last night against the Toronto Raptors, and up next is Gary Neal’s Milwaukee Bucks. Little known fact: “Milwaukee Bucks” is actually Wisconsonese for “we give all the momentum.” I kid, of course. This is not Gary Neal’s team, as he is out with that pesky plantar fasciitis. There will be no Gary Neal revenge game on this, the 11th of December.
Just having fun here, folks, but in all seriousness, the Bucks are in bad shape. They defeated the Chicago Bulls (who aren’t much better sans Derrick Rose) in a 78-74 barnburner, and now they welcome the 16-4 Spurs to town. It’s not good for them, but, in theory, it’s great for San Antonio. Milwaukee is awful. For a team that went out and spent money in the offseason to at least attempt to make the playoffs, it’s been a really rough year. And it all started with a Larry Sanders bar fight that left him with a broken thumb that required surgery to repair. The pins were just removed on Monday.
Oh, the NBA.
Sanders was one of the league’s most impactful defenders last season, and his play warranted the big extension he received over the offseason. Without him, the Bucks can’t defend anyone. They’re allowing nearly 104 points per 100 possessions to their opponents, and now that Zaza Pachulia is injured as well, they’re having a hell of a time trying to defend the paint. Baynes is already salivating, though that could be the mutton he’s currently feasting on. (I just kind of imagine that Baynes is constantly feasting on things so that he can stay a giant human being.)
One thing that might be interesting, however, is that the Bucks do defend the perimeter quite well. They’re 12th in the league in terms of 3-point field-goal attempts allowed and are 7th in percentage allowed from beyond the arc. Obviously, this is something the Spurs do well, so that might be an area in which San Antonio experiences issues. I mean, they shouldn’t, given the fact Tim Duncan, Tony Parker Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard should own the paint in this one, but you never know.
Houston adopted the “let Parker score, but no one else” strategy a week and a half ago, so we might see the Bucks concede penetration, in a sense, in an effort to cut out the 3-ball. Who knows? That doesn’t seem to be a typical strategy, really, but it has worked for teams in the past against San Antonio.
On the other side of the ball, it will be interesting to see what the Spurs’ starting lineup looks like this evening. It’s the second game of a back-to-back swing, and it’s against one of the worst teams in the league. So there’s certainly a chance we don’t see Duncan, but again, who knows? I am willing to bet, however, that we will see Aron Baynes a lot, especially after his performance on Tuesday and the fact that Tiago Splitter is still in San Antonio at the moment.
Whoever it is that starts, they’ll have to deal with John Henson, who was awesome Tuesday night. The second-year forward from North Carolina went for 25 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks (and Milwaukee STILL scored just 78 points) and continues to grow into a really solid player. But the Bucks are just miserable, offensively. Offensively miserable, offensively, even.
Milwaukee is scoring just (holy geez) 94.2 points per 100 possessions this season. And they won’t even have Neal tonight, as I mentioned before. That’s at least, like, 30 points a night right there! (It’s not.) They’ll also be without Caron Butler and Carlos Delfino.
In conclusion, this should be a night where the Spurs take care of business fairly quickly. The starters likely won’t play a bunch tonight, which is always a good thing. If they have to play more than 30 minutes apiece, that probably means things have not gone well on this particular evening.
The Bucks are in a bad place right now, and it’s unfortunate. If there is a silver lining, it’s that they’re careening toward the high end of the NBA Lottery when their owner inexplicably chased down contracts in the offseason to make this team a contender for the back end of the playoffs. There are likely brighter days ahead in Milwaukee, but it’s cold and bleak for the Bucks right now.
Game time is 7 p.m. CT on Fox Sports Southwest.