Giannis returns, Bucks hold off Spurs
MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo went up for a dunk a couple minutes into the game and showed his right ankle was just fine.
The way that the All-Star forward and the rest of the Milwaukee Bucks finished off the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday may prove to be just as important for a team heading out for an important West Coast road trip.
Antetokounmpo returned from a one-game absence with an ankle injury to score 25 points, and the Bucks’ held on after building a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter for a 106-103 win.
“We got stops to win the game,” center John Henson said. “We held the ship together, tried to make it as tough as possible on them down the stretch.”
The Spurs trailed by 15 points with 8 minutes left before rallying to get within three with 35 seconds left on Pau Gasol’s putback.
Eric Bledsoe missed a 3-pointer on the other end for the Bucks. San Antonio rushed down court to get one last shot off, but Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton blocked Dejounte Murray’s 3-point attempt from the right wing with 3.7 seconds left.
The loss snapped the Spurs’ six-game winning streak.
“Sometimes we opt to just take it when the defense can’t get set and look for a shot,” coach Gregg Popovich said about the final play. “But we didn’t react well to that. Because of that, I probably should have called a timeout.”
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 34 points for the Spurs. Gasol had 22 on 10-of-15 shooting and grabbed 13 rebounds.
The Bucks built just enough of a cushion in the third quarter, when they shot 64 percent (16 of 25) and outhustled the Spurs defensively for loose balls and deflections. Bledsoe scored 11 of his 23 points in the third.
This was exactly how Bucks coach Joe Prunty wanted his team to finish against a perennial playoff contender before departing on a four-game road swing. Milwaukee is trying to move up from the eighth and final playoff spot in the East with nine games left in the regular season.
The Bucks have won two straight after losing two straight.
“Now we’re feeling good about ourselves,” Antetokounmpo said. “This road trip is going to be big for us.”
Spurs: Popovich praised Prunty for his meticulousness. Prunty got his start in the NBA as a video coordinator for the Spurs, spending nine seasons in San Antonio and eventually being promoted to assistant coach. “He was a real work horse, somebody who understood what I wanted and how to find it,” Popovich said.
Bucks: F Jabari Parker returned to the bench after starting one game for the injured Antetokounmpo. He finished with eight points in 18 minutes. … The Bucks outscored the Spurs 27-15 in the first quarter, a rare good start for a team that has not played well to open games in recent weeks.
SPURS’ SLOPPY STARTS
The Bucks’ ball movement was crisp for stretches. They played aggressively in the pivotal third against the Spurs’ zone thanks in large part to Bledsoe’s quickness. It was the second straight game the Spurs allowed 41 points in a quarter, tying a season high given up to the Utah Jazz on Friday night.
Trailing by 12 points after the first quarter, the Spurs held the Bucks to 1-of-10 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc during the period and tied the game at 47-all at halftime.
“A couple of those runs, we couldn’t weather the storm, we gave them a head-start in the first and third quarter,” guard Patty Mills said.
Antetokounmpo said he wasn’t 100 percent, but still felt good enough to record his 37th double-double of the season after grabbing 10 rebounds.
Spurs: Visit the Washington Wizards on Tuesday.
Bucks: Begin a four-game trip against Western Conference teams by visiting the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday.
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- Giannis Antetokounmpo
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