Posted on March 25, 2018, by Travis Pulver
The San Antonio Spurs entered Sunday afternoon’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks on a roll having won their last six. They were not all pretty wins, but the important thing was that they were just that—wins. But with only a handful of games separating the No. 3 seed from the No. 8 seed in the West, every win is important.
However, victory wasn’t quite in the cards for them this time.
San Antonio dug an early hole by shooting only 29 percent from the floor in the first and falling behind by 12 points, 27-15. But then they started the second quarter with a 17-5 run to tie the game up at 32-32. When halftime rolled around, the game was still tied at 47-47.
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After surviving a horrible start, it looked like the Spurs had a shot to pull this one out. They just had to get back to playing solid defense like they have been during their six-game win streak. But instead, they did the exact opposite in the third quarter. Milwaukee put up 41 and took a 13-point lead into the final quarter.
A combination of poor shooting on Milwaukee’s part combined with decent (but not great) defense by the Spurs, allowed San Antonio to crawl back into the game late in the fourth. After being down by 12-points, 104-92, with 3:31 to play, San Antonio got within three, 106-103, with 35 seconds to play.
Had the right person taken the final shot for the Spurs, they may have been able to send the game into overtime. But for some reason, Dejounte Murray, who had attempted only 29 three-pointers all season and made just nine, attempted a 29-footer.
Khris Middleton didn’t let it get close. Danny Green got the rebound and threw up a shot hoping it would go in and he’d get fouled—but no luck.
Murray took the blame for the loss since he missed the shot. But Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich disagreed with his assessment:
“He was fine,” Popovich said of Murray’s decision-making (San Antonio Express-News). “Sometimes we opt to take it when the defense can’t get set and look for a shot. But we didn’t react well to that. Because of that I probably should have called a timeout.”
Milwaukee certainly got a boost out of the return of Giannis Antetokounmpo who missed the Bucks last game due to an ankle injury. Antetokounmpo led the way for the Bucks with a double-double, 25 points and ten rebounds. Eric Bledsoe chipped in another 23 points and Khris Middleton had 19.
“Now we’re feeling good about ourselves,” Antetokounmpo said (FoxSports). “This road trip is going to be big for us.”
LaMarcus Aldridge got over a slow start to lead the Spurs with 34 points. Pau Gasol chipped in a double-double off the bench with 22 points and 13 rebounds.
With the loss, the Spurs record falls to 43-31. If they are going to hit the 50-win mark again they will have to go 7-1 down the stretch with games against the Wizards, Thunder, Rockets, Trail Blazers, and Pelicans on the schedule. It would be nice, but it doesn’t look like they are going to make it unless a lot of teams start to rest players. But with playoff positioning in the West still fluid, it is unlikely anyone will.
The Spurs are currently the No. 6 seed but only have a 2.5 game advantage on the Denver Nuggets (No. 9).
Milwaukee’s spot in the East (No. 7) is likely safe since they have a six-game advantage on the Detroit Pistons (No. 9). But they could potentially climb as high as No. 4 if they can keep winning (and with a little help).
San Antonio faces off against the Washington Wizard Tuesday night. Milwaukee will head to Los Angeles to face the Clippers (also on Tuesday).