MILWAUKEE — The way the San Antonio Spurs are currently playing, it’s going to take a perfect performance from an opponent to beat them.
Flying under the radar as they so often do, the Spurs put on a clinic Wednesday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, leading for all but 40 seconds in a 117-110 win over the Bucks.
It was San Antonio’s league-leading seventh victory in a row. And while teams like the Thunder, Heat and Clippers get all the headlines, the Spurs’ 26-8 record is among the NBA’s best.
If the Spurs played their game, the Bucks (16-14) were going to be in trouble. And they did. Milwaukee’s defense thrives on forcing turnovers and it didn’t in the first half, allowing the Spurs to build a 69-52 halftime lead.
Milwaukee’s opponents average 22.5 assists per game and San Antonio had 19 assists and just two turnovers at halftime. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich doesn’t want good shots, he wants great ones, and his team obliged.
“They have really good players and they know how to play,” Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. “Their spacing is good, they shoot a very high three-point percentage and they did that tonight as well. They spread you out and make very good decisions with the ball.
“You have to be very, very sharp. You have to make them feel you and we didn’t do a good enough job of that early in the game.”
To the Bucks’ credit, they fought back and cut the deficit to nine on a Brandon Jennings’ jump shot with 10:03 to play, forcing Popovich to bring Tim Duncan and Tony Parker back into the game. However, the Spurs rattled off a 10-0 run in just two minutes to build the lead back to 19.
“They never die, that’s the one thing about these guys,” Popovich said. “They do it to a lot of teams, and a lot of good teams.”
The style of play that San Antonio thrives at is one not conducive to Milwaukee. The Bucks like to get out and run, setting the pace, while the Spurs prefer more of a half-court game. Led by Parker, the Spurs controlled the pace Wednesday night.
“We just couldn’t stop them defensively,” Bucks forward Mike Dunleavy said. “We gave up too many points, too high of a shooting percentage. We played well enough offensively, just not good enough defensively.
“With them it is a lot of times pick your poison. Either Parker getting to the rim or Duncan popping out for the 15 to 17 footer.”
Looking not a day over 25, the 36-year-old Duncan took it to Milwaukee’s young post players. Be it a jump shot, a put-back or a dive to the hoop for an easy dunk, Duncan put on his usual show and finished with 28 points and 13 rebounds.
Bucks center Larry Sanders made it a point to tell Duncan after the game that he feels like the future Hall of Famer hasn’t had an off-night all year.
“Man, that’s what every NBA player wants to be when they are at that age,” Sanders said. “They still want to be moving and playing like that and taking advantage of other guys’ weaknesses.”
After their biggest win of the season last Saturday night against Miami, the Bucks have failed to capitalize on the momentum and have dropped two straight games. Indiana, who Milwaukee plays Saturday, is now two full games ahead of the Bucks in the Central Division.
In the fourth playoff seed just a few days ago, the Bucks are now tied for sixth with Brooklyn. Skiles pointed out after the game that his team has essentially trailed for eight straight quarters against Detroit and San Antonio and he said “that’s not good enough.”
“We have to go out and try to play as hard as we can to get some more momentum going,” Sanders said. “We are a little deflated but that’s the good thing about the NBA, we play again in a couple of days. We have to bounce back.”