SAN ANTONIO – The Milwaukee Bucks played their second straight game without stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday – and lost Grayson Allen right at tipoff – and lost 111-93 to the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center on Friday.
Here are some takeaways from the game in San Antonio:
Bucks run out of gas
Two nights after a double-overtime game in Oklahoma City where six players played at least 30 minutes and Brook Lopez (46) and Jevon Carter (45) surged well past 40, the short-handed Bucks just didn’t have enough to run with the rebuilding Spurs to the finish.
Mike Budenholzer credited the Spurs for their defensive pressure and added, “We kind of wore down and they were better for longer stretches than we were.”
The Bucks fell behind by as many as 21 halfway through the third quarter, a point where Budenholzer acknowledged it maybe it wouldn’t be his team’s night. But, the Bucks rallied to cut it to 81-74 with under a minute left in the frame behind Carter (21 points, 6 assists), Lopez (19 points, 2 blocks) and Bobby Portis (16 points, 12 rebounds).
But to open the fourth, the Bucks missed six straight shots and had two turnovers and the Spurs hit just enough shots.
“Credit to our players,” Budenholzer said. “They really fought. We actually won the third quarter by a point, cut it to seven. We needed to start that fourth quarter and maybe a score. I feel like they went on a 6-0 to start in the quarter, or 7-0 run, and we were just back in hole and just didn’t have a enough and they were better.”
As for not having the Big Three for the last two games, Lopez said, “It’s good for us without Giannis, Khris and Jrue to go out there and get lots of reps against different things. These last two games have been great experience for us. We definitely learned a lot.”
Box score:Spurs 111, Bucks 93
The Bucks are not a team that will just pack it in – not with a roster full of veterans – but they just didn’t play well, along with having to work really hard to generate offense without so many playmakers. They shot a woeful 27.9% from behind the three-point line and only 33% overall. They also turned it over 13 times.
“We just lost the game, man,” Portis said. “We fought back into it in that third quarter, got it down to seven points, down 21 at one point, got it down to seven and… they went on another run and we couldn’t finish the game off from there. Just basketball. One of them games where you don’t make shots and don’t get enough stops to win.”
Milwaukee is now 10-2 on the season and San Antonio improved to 6-7.
First quarter set odd tone
San Antonio took a 31-27 lead after one quarter, which began oddly with Allen’s absence and was quickly followed up with Brook Lopez being assessed a delay of game penalty for not being ready for the opening jump ball. Lopez just shook his head in disbelief.
“I don’t know what’s going on with the delay of games to start the games,” Budenholzer said. “It must be some kind of NBA; trying to clean something up. I’ll just leave it at that.”
Lopez was just as dumbfounded.
“I came out, I was like two seconds behind everyone else – I couldn’t believe they called delay of game at the beginning,” he said. “I don’t know. I guess the refs are working on stuff, figuring stuff out, trying to get better, too. I don’t know.”
Milwaukee then turned it over four times in the first 2 ½ minutes – and six times total – in the quarter. They were fortunate that Wesley Matthews was not injured in the quarter, either, as he fell over television and still photographers under his basket and remained on the ground for a possession.
Then, with 2.5 seconds left in the period the Bucks were hit with a second delay of game after a George Hill free throw, resulting in a technical free throw for the Spurs.
“There was a lot of strange things,” Lopez said. “Tons of traveling (eight in the game). Delays of game. I guess, again, the refs are working on getting better, perfecting their craft, calling the calls I guess the league wants them to call. I don’t know.”
Grayson Allen misses game with illness for Bucks
Allen was suited up and in the locker room before the game, and was announced as a starter, but he did not take the court. Jordan Nwora drew the start instead. The Bucks said with just under five minutes left in the first quarter that Allen was questionable to play after coming down with a non-COVID illness, and at halftime he was ruled out.
Budenholzer said he saw Allen leave the team right before tipoff, but found out the guard wouldn’t be back until just before.
“It’s very, very unusual,” Budenholzer said. “Sometimes guys go to the locker room for a quick second before the jump ball but obviously it was more than that.”
Allen’s absence left the Bucks with 10 available players.
Nwora said this happened to him last year, when Rodney Hood got sick right before tip in a game against Indiana. On Friday, Nwora played 29 minutes but was 3 for 13 from the floor for eight points. He added seven rebounds and five assists.
Giannis Antetokounmpo continues to manage left knee soreness
Antetokounmpo was ruled out for Friday’s game against the Spurs with left knee soreness, and it will be the second straight game and third out of the last four games he has missed.
The first time it appeared Antetokounmpo felt bothered by the left knee was in pregame warmups against Detroit on Nov. 2 at Fiserv Forum. He played 29 minutes in the win over the Pistons, scoring 32 points and pulling down 12 rebounds.
The next day he appeared on the injury report for the first time with soreness in the knee. He played on Nov. 4 in Minnesota, making just 7 of his 17 shots for 26 points. He added 14 rebounds. He did not play the next night against Oklahoma City and returned to play 26 minutes against Atlanta on Nov. 7. He was just 9 for 20 and many of his jumpers hit the front of the rim, and Hawks players jumped over him for offensive rebounds on several occasions. He was then held out of the game against the Thunder on Nov. 9.
Antetokounmpo was ruled out against the Spurs early in the day on Nov. 11, along with point guard Jrue Holiday (sprained right ankle) and cut the road trip short to head back to Milwaukee. Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said before the game Antetokounmpo’s situation has not changed.
In his first five games, Antetokounmpo shot 60.6% from the floor in averaging 34.4 points in 34.6 minutes per game. In the four games played after the knee flared up in that warmup, he’s played 30.4 minutes per game and his shooting has fallen to 46.4% while scoring 28.5 points.
1-7: Bucks record the last three seasons when none of the Big Three play (including the regular-season finale last year when Jrue Holiday checked in for only the opening tip to earn a contract bonus).
12: Blocked shots for the Spurs, a season best.
37.9: Three-point percentage for the Spurs when the starters were in the game (they were pulled with 1:29 to go). San Antonio came into the game as the sixth-best three-point shooting team in the league at 37.9%.
1979-80: The last time the Bucks had started a season 10-1, which the Bucks did before the loss in San Antonio.
11,000/6,500: Career points and rebounds Bucks center Serge Ibaka reached in the game. Ibaka is in his 14th season.
Bucks injury report
- Giannis Antetokounmpo (left knee soreness): Out
- Jrue Holiday (right ankle sprain): Out
- Khris Middleton (left wrist surgery): Out
- Pat Connaughton (right calf strain): Out
- Joe Ingles (left ACL): Out
- AJ Green (nasal fracture): Out
- Grayson Allen (non-COVID illness): Out
Who started for the Bucks?
Play of the game is Jevon Carter’s rally-starting three-pointer
For a moment, it looked as if the Bucks might pack it in. Jordan Nwora missed a layup and Bobby Portis missed a putback that led to a San Antonio three-pointer, and then a block of a Jevon Carter drive led to another Spurs triple and a 75-54 lead with 5:58 to go in the third quarter. But after the Bucks called timeout, Carter came down and smoothly hit a three-pointer of his own.
The play in and of itself wasn’t necessarily “highlight worthy,” but rather it was representative of the Bucks not being quite ready to go down without a fight. The three started a 20-6 stretch that saw them cut the lead to seven with under a minute left in the quarter and get back in the game.
Video of the game is Marques Johnson and Paul Pressey reuniting
Former Bucks Marques Johnson and Paul Pressey got together before the game to talk about their couple years together under head coach Don Nelson from 1982-84. The two were the first players considered as “point forwards” under Nelson. Pressey played in San Antonio from 1990-92 and was recognized in the first quarter by the team.
Who do the Bucks play next?
Milwaukee heads home to face the Atlanta Hawks for the third time in their first 13 games, at 7 p.m. Monday at Fiserv Forum. The Bucks won the first meeting on Oct. 29 in Milwaukee while the Hawks won 117-98 on Nov. 7 in Atlanta, snapping the Bucks’ franchise-best nine game winning streak to start the season.