Bucks 94, Spurs 87: Creating turnovers is a winning recipe
Bucks 94, Spurs 87: Creating turnovers is a winning recipe:- On paper, the Milwaukee Bucks have a fun, fast-paced offense with multiple weapons around Giannis Antetokounmpo.
They also feature a swarming defense filled with long-limbed defenders who block shots, get deflections and steal passes on a regular basis.
They didn’t quite reach their Platonic ideal on Friday night against the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center, but they got much closer than they have in recent games. More importantly, the Bucks came through with a win to close out their road trip, holding off the Spurs, 94-87, to end a four-game losing skid.
Giannis Antetokounmpo paced the Bucks with a game-high 28 points to go with 12 rebounds, five assists and four blocks. New-addition Eric Bledsoe, who had just one shootaround to get acclimated to his teammates, got off to a strong start in his Bucks debut, finishing with 13 points, seven assists, four rebounds and a steal.
Bledsoe came through in the clutch when the Bucks needed a late bucket.
Clinging to a two-point lead, Milwaukee called timeout with 1:49 left. Bledsoe got the ball on the ensuing possession and buried a jumper that gave the Bucks some breathing room. One stop and a Khris Middleton swish later, Milwaukee had all the cushion it would need.
San Antonio’s 87 points were the fewest allowed by Milwaukee’s much-maligned defense this season. That came in large part to the Bucks creating live-ball turnovers along with blocking seven shots. The Spurs turned the ball over 18 times, with 10 of those coming by way of the Bucks’ season-high 10 steals.
Many of those were live-ball turnovers leading to runouts with the Bucks turning those opportunities into 19 fast-break points. No fast-break finish was prettier than John Henson’s second-quarter steal, which turned into an alley-oop from Bledsoe to Antetokounmpo that the Greek Freak caught and threw down one-handed.
Milwaukee’s bench, which has had up-and-down results this season, turned in one of its better performances. Head coach Jason Kidd mixed and matched his lineup often throughout the night and found useful combinations. He put Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova on the court together early and they made a run to keep the game close in the first quarter.
Brogdon, who moved to the bench to accommodate Bledsoe, went 0 for 3 in the first half but helped close out the win down the stretch, finishing with nine points and seven rebounds. Dellavedova had nine points as well, Thon Maker added four with six rebounds and DeAndre Liggins added three.
BEHIND THE BOX SCORE
High praise from Pop: Antetokounmpo had only gone up against the Spurs eight times in his career heading into Friday’s game, but San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich has certainly been watching Antetokounmpo’s ascension through the league.
Asked for his perspective on Antetokounmpo’s progress from a wide-eyed teenager with unknown potential to the league’s current leading scorer, Popovich, a three-time NBA coach of the year and coach of the five-time champion Spurs, had plenty of glowing things to say.
“You’d have to say that he’s become very confident and gained both skill wise and awareness of the game steadily each year,” Popovich said. “He’s become a leader, he knows what he can do and he plays now to destroy you.
“In the beginning, he was pretty darn good and he would do this and he would do that. But now he knows he can do it to you every time. He’s for real and it’s wonderful to watch him play. It’s a lot of fun.”
Teletovic out: Bucks forward Mirza Teletovic missed his first game of the season on Friday. Teletovic, who played on Tuesday despite being listed as questionable, did not participate in shootaround Friday and is expected to miss more than one game due a knee issue.
Teams: Los Angeles Lakers (5-7) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (5-6).
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Where: BMO Harris Bradley Center.
About the Lakers: As the Bucks return home, the Lakers make their only stop of the year in Milwaukee in the third game of their four-game road trip. The Lakers dropped the first two games of that trip, falling at Boston and Washington. Center Brook Lopez, in his first year with the Lakers, is leading the team with 15.8 points while adding 4.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. Rookie Kyle Kuzma, a 6-foot-9 forward out of the University of Utah, has gotten off to a strong start, averaging 14.8 points and 6.5 rebounds. No. 2 overall pick Lonzo Ball hasn’t shot the ball well on the way to 8.9 points per game, shooting 29.2% from the field including 22.0% on three-pointers. However, he does lead the Lakers with 6.9 assists per game. Going back to his college days at UCLA, Ball has been compared to Kidd, something Kidd currently believes is a bit of a stretch.