For one half of basketball on Wednesday, it seemed as if the San Antonio Spurs were going to not only extend their six-game winning streak to seven, but they might also get to rest their starters in blowout fashion as the Spurs went into halftime against the Milwaukee Bucks leading by 17 points.
The Spurs did win Wednesday 117-110, but the second half was a battle as the Bucks outscored the Spurs 58-48 in the last 24 minutes of the game to make the Spurs play their core players down to the finish after San Antonio had built a 23-point lead.
The “Big Three” did their work Wednesday, as Tim Duncan led the Spurs with 28 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, and three blocks. Tony Parker chipped in 23 points and 11 assists, while Manu Ginobili added 16 points and six assists off the bench.
The pesky Bucks didn’t go away though as Brandon Jennings led the team with 31 points, while youngster John Henson provided 20 points off the bench. Monta Ellis added 18 points for Milwaukee, while Mike Dunleavy chipped in with his own 19 points to make the Spurs earn their victory.
Here’s the rundown of the Spurs’ night that looked like a blowout, but turned into battle to the end.
First quarter: Spurs 33, Bucks 22
Duncan being Duncan - Duncan lit up the Bucks with 12 points in the first quarter as he scored off jumpers, fade-aways, made and-1 plays, and even sank his free throws. He also dished two assists; one across the court to Stephen Jackson in the open court.
Defense forcing turnovers - The Spurs’ defense also put the pressure on the Bucks by forcing them to commit seven turnovers and only connect on 9-of-25 (36%) shots.
Second quarter: Spurs 69, Bucks 52
Season high 69 points in a half - How did the Spurs follow up a first quarter in which they scored 33 points? By scoring the most points in a half this season by pouring 36 more points on the Bucks in the second quarter. Duncan continued to dominate as he scored eight more points in the second, to go into the half with 20 points.
Limited attention on defense - Defensively however, the Spurs allowed the Bucks to score 30 points in the second quarter, and Henson scored 10 points alone in the second. The Spurs shot 61% in the first half and on several occasions built a 21-point lead, while the Bucks got their lead down to just 15 points.
Third quarter: Spurs 93, Bucks 81
Bucks return to defensive form – The third quarter was much different from the first half as the Bucks showed why they came in as the 9th ranked defensive team in points as they held the Spurs to just 24 points in the third quarter, while Milwaukee put 29 points on the Spurs. The Spurs’ lead did get as high as 23 in the third, but the Bucks closed the third on an 11-3 run to go into the final period with a 12-point deficit.
Fourth quarter: Spurs 117, Bucks 110
Bucks make starters work for victory – No lead was safe enough on Wednesday for Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich to rest his starters as Popovich had to play Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, Danny Green, and Kawhi Leonard for a majority of the fourth quarter as the Bucks continued to keep pace with the Spurs as they outscored San Antonio 29-24 once again in the final quarter. The Spurs’ starters finally got some rest with 1:28 left in the game, but the Bucks again remained pesky and Duncan had to finish the game on the court.
Onto “The Garden” - Though the Bucks lost, they did the New York Knicks a favor in making the Spurs work for the victory down to the final seconds. With the win, the Spurs extended their winning streak to seven games and improve their record to 26-8 on the season, but their main core players will go into Madison Square Garden on Thursday with limited rest on a back-to-back night.