On the Road Again: Bucks-Spurs Preview

What to Watch For: Bucks (22-21)

The Bucks have struggled to win consistently at the BMO Harris Bradley Center this season, but they’re 12-11 on the road (so is San Antonio) and had won five straight away from home before The Pau Gasol Game in Chicago a couple weeks ago. Thanks to a trip across the pond, Milwaukee has played only four games since then and they’ve all (technically) been at home.

Hitting the road for a three-game trip, the question is whether or not the Bucks’ success away from home is sustainable, or of it’s merely an anomaly. No team in the NBA had a better road record than home record last season, so it will be interesting to see if Milwaukee can, um, buck that trend.

Coming off of a tough home loss to the Jazz on Thursday, Milwaukee rebounded by routing the Pistons 101-86 on Saturday. It was a surprisingly easy win for a team that’s struggled at home this season, and had the Bucks not called off the dogs in the fourth quarter – Detroit outscored Milwaukee 19-10 in the final 12 minutes – the final margin would have been more dramatic. Sunday’s matchup will close out the Bucks’ 12th back-to-back set of the season. They’re just 4-7 in the second game of back-to-backs and have dropped four of their last five.

What to Watch For: Spurs (28-17)

While the Pistons are a drastically improved team, they’re not the Spurs.

San Antonio has owned Milwaukee of late, much like its owned pretty much every team in the league for the better part of the last 15 years. The Spurs are seeking their fifth straight win over the Bucks, as well as their 10th win in 13 games. Last season, San Antonio outscored Milwaukee by a combined 60 points in the teams’ two matchups, including a 110-82 romp in San Antonio on Jan. 19.

After a historic run to a second straight Finals, last year’s Spurs will go down as one of the better teams in recent history. But despite returning nearly the entire, veteran-laden roster, the 2014-15 edition has experienced some uncharacteristic struggles. They hit a rough patch in mid-December, at one point dropping six of seven games, all to Western Conference opponents. Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker were out with injuries for most of that stretch, but still it was strange to see a Spurs team struggling, with or without two of its best players. For the past few seasons, it hasn’t seemed to matter who Gregg Popovich throws on the court. Rookies and journeyman veterans alike have thrived in his system, and the Spurs’ bench is among the deepest in the league thanks to Pop’s willingness to spread minutes around.

To no one’s surprise, San Antonio weathered the rough December stretch and has once again asserted itself as a threat in the deep Western Conference. Since falling to the Pelicans in New Orleans on Dec. 26, the Spurs are 10-3 overall and 7-1 at home. A softer schedule has certainly helped, and the opportunities to string wins together should continue with seven of their next eight games (including Sunday) coming against Eastern Conference opponents.

Logistics

Time – 6:00 p.m. CST TV – Fox Sports Wisconsin Radio – 620 WTMJ

Injury Report

Bucks: Larry Sanders (personal reasons; out); Kendall Marshall (ACL tear; out for season; Danien Inglis (post-surgery – right ankle; out for season); Jabari Parker (ACL tear; out for season)

Spurs: Marco Belinelli (groin; out)

Projected Lineups

Bucks: Brandon KnightKhris MiddletonGiannis AntetokounmpoErsan IlyasovaZaza Pachulia

Spurs: Tony Parker – Danny Green – Kawhi Leonard – Tim DuncanTiago Splitter

Choose the Form of the Destructor: Ball movement

Much like the Bucks, the Spurs don’t funnel the ball on offense to one or two players. Tony Parker aside, San Antonio doesn’t have any outstanding one-on-one players, and the Spurs are among the most athletically challenged teams in the league. Still, they find ways to beat teams with spacing, smart cutting and ball movement. And they can do things like this. On the whole, Milwaukee’s defense has been excellent this season, but it appears to fly around – even swarm, if you will – more on some nights than others. To contain this Spurs team at home, it’s going to take 48 minutes of complete focus on the defensive end.

Prediction: Spurs by more than 10 but less than 20

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