Spurs, Bucks clash in battle of hot teams

MILWAUKEE — Two of the National Basketball Association's hottest teams face off Monday night when the San Antonio Spurs visit the Milwaukee Bucks at the Bradley Center.

The Spurs come to town having won two in a row and 11 of their last 12 games while the Bucks extended their winning streak to a season-high four games Saturday night with a 112-103 victory over the Nets.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has been a driving force during Milwaukee's winning streak, but Jabari Parker has been a big factor as well, averaging 16.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists during those four games.

“He's played real well,” Antetokounmpo said. “He's leading us out there. I hope that he can keep playing the same way.”

The two building blocks of Milwaukee's rebuilding efforts are starting to develop their own rhythm and that chemistry is spreading to the rest of the Bucks' young roster.

It was evident Saturday, when the Bucks watched a 16-point lead turn into a back-and-forth affair in the fourth quarter. Head coach Jason Kidd decided to let the guys on the floor figure out how to stop the bleeding on their own, and the move paid off.

“I wasn't going to call timeout,” Kidd said. “I wanted to see if they were going to talk themselves through it because that's what good teams do.”

Milwaukee has won five of its last six games since falling just short against Golden State Nov. 21. During that stretch, the Bucks have beaten the Magic twice, knocked off the defending champion Cavaliers and then beat Brooklyn in back-to-back games.

That success, especially against good competition, has led to increased confidence.

“Winning games we can (be in) control and sneak up on other teams that are really good,” Parker said. “Wins like that carry over. It's all about using these habits we get in each win.”

San Antonio owns the second-best mark in the NBA this season but has struggled out of the gate at times.

“We can't get it going,” Manu Ginobili told ESPN.com. “It's taking us a while to get into the rhythm, into the aggressiveness that we need to get leads. Yeah, we are not playing well, but the good thing is that meanwhile we're getting wins and we're maintaining a good record.”

San Antonio's defense has been a big boost so far. While the Spurs are 19th in scoring this season with 103.0 points per game, they're allowing just 98.2 — the fourth-best mark in the league.

“It seems like in the second half our defense always picks up and we get back into the games because of the defense,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “That's a good thing, I guess, that it gets better as the game goes along.”

Point guard Tony Parker sat out the Spurs' victory Friday over Washington with a bruised left quad. He's missed seven games this season and is considered day-to-day as San Antonio kicks off a three-game swing through the Upper Midwest.

“We have got a 'how much better are you meter?'” Popovich told the San Antonio Express News. “We will check it out.”