MILWAUKEE — The machine that is the San Antonio Spurs rolled on Wednesday night, quickly and efficiently taking care of the Milwaukee Bucks at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
Setting the tone from the opening tip, the Spurs simply were too good for the shorthanded and struggling Milwaukee Bucks. San Antonio led the entire way and by as many as 38 in a 109-77 victory, handing Milwaukee its worst loss of the season.
“They are a really good basketball team,” Bucks coach Larry Drew said. “I don’t think there’s any way to cut it. If you look at the beginning of the game, the first two or three minutes, they were just on pace and on target with everything they did.”
The Bucks had to start fast and bring energy from the start to have any chance to knock off the defending Western Conference champions Wednesday night. But like they have all year in the second half of back-to-backs, the Bucks were sluggish and got buried quickly.
San Antonio rode Tim Duncan and Tony Parker for 19 points to jump out to a 32-16 lead after the first quarter. The game was no contest after that.
“I didn’t think we competed very well at the very beginning, particularly in the first quarter,” Drew said. “The second unit came in and gave us some energy but by that time it was too big of a deficit to overcome. We did not compete on a high level tonight. We can’t use excuses on injury, on having played last night.
“We faced a really good basketball team tonight, but the disappointment lies in that we didn’t compete at a high level, we didn’t lay it on the line. We didn’t play as hard as we could have.”
The most impressive part of San Antonio’s performance Wednesday was the fact the Spurs were also playing on a back-to-back and looked as if they had a week off to prepare. Sure, no San Antonio player had to log more than 29 minutes Tuesday night, but the Spurs are also a team led by three players over the age of 30.
Drew felt Duncan moved up and down the court as well as he’s seen in years, as the 37-year-old did whatever he wanted against John Henson and Ekpe Udoh. Duncan scored 21 points in 24 minutes, outscoring Milwaukee’s entire starting lineup by two.
“Timmy is playing well,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He is like an anomaly really. He is out there with one leg and just keeps playing beautiful basketball. He makes everyone around him better by the decisions he makes and just the way he plays unselfishly. He is still the base of everything we do.”
San Antonio put on its usual ball movement and passing clinic and clearly had no intentions of overlooking the worst team in the Eastern Conference.
“It was tough after that first-quarter deficit, being down 20 right away,” Bucks rookie Nate Wolters said. “It’s almost impossible to come back on those guys just because they are so efficient offensively. No matter what we did they kept getting good shots.
“They’re unbelievable. It seems like whatever you do they get open looks. The ball movement and the spacing is amazing no matter who is out there. Their third string guys were getting any shot they wanted too. It’s impressive to watch.”
The only positive in the 32-point loss was the experience gained by the team’s three rookies. Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 15 points and eight rebounds in 33 minutes, all career-highs. Wolters led the Bucks with 18 points and seven assists in 30 minutes, while Miroslav Raduljica scored 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 23 minutes. Antetokounmpo called it “a bad loss” but also recognized there was something to gain from playing against a team like San Antonio.
“You try to see what they do because they are one of the best teams at executing,” Antetokounmpo said. “Seeing the ‘Big Three’ of (Manu) Ginobili, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, you try to learn something from them and see what they do so you can improve and get better.”
Once again the Bucks struggled to string together back-to-back quality performances, something Drew has been searching for all season long. After a win Tuesday in Chicago, Milwaukee couldn’t build upon the victory.
The Bucks are the only team in the NBA without back-to-back wins this season, a troubling stat for a young squad trying to improve with each game.
“I thought we’d come out with a little more energy,” Wolters said. “It seemed right from the get go we couldn’t get anything going. After we get wins like the one in Chicago, we have to come back with more energy. We have to play better at home. We’ve really struggled at home thus far.”