The San Antonio Spurs ended their four game losing streak Saturday with a defensive clamp down of the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks.
The Spurs held the Bucks to a Spurs opponent season low 93 points and in the fourth quarter, down the stretch, which has been the big issue for the team, it was Dejounte Murray who guided the team in crunch time to victory.
Let’s analyze both ends of the floor for San Antonio in their win over Milwaukee.
Best Defensive Game of the Early Season
While yes the Bucks were missing several key players like Jrue Holiday, Brook Lopez, and Bobby Portis, they were still favored by 7 going into this game with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton playing.
The Spurs continued to be very active on defense for the full 48 minutes, holding Milwaukee below 30 points in every quarter of the game.
San Antonio’s swarming defensive allowed them to put together 12 steals, which was a new season high. Murray led the team with 3 steals and 7 other players had at minimum one steal.
57% of the Spurs’ steals were responsible for the Bucks’ 21 turnovers on the night. The Spurs turned those steals into points with 19 points off turnovers.
On one play in particular Bryn Forbes stole an incoming pass and finished with a layup on the other end.
The Bucks also struggled from three, where they shot 26% from deep, which was also a new season low for a Spurs opponent.
Aside from Antetokounmpo, no other Bucks player had more than 8 points in the paint, as the Spurs used that area of the floor to dominate the game.
With Jakob Poeltl in foul trouble in the first half, different Spurs players got their chance to guard Antetokounmpo. Thaddeus Young, who had been logging ‘did not plays,’ got to play 16 minutes, where he played the backup 5.
Since sample sizes early in the season can alter a teams ranking dramatically, it’ll be interesting to see if this game moves San Antonio into the Top 10 defensively Sunday.
“We finally turned it into a win,” said Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich after the game. “We could have done it a couple of other times,” said Popovich of the Spurs playing good enough defense lately to have a chance in each of their losses.
“It’s great,” said Murray after the game. “We dug deep for 48 minutes.”
“I think we played well, especially on the defensive end,” said Forbes after the game. “We got a much needed win and a big win.”
Enough Scoring to Hold On
While the Spurs themselves struggled with their jumpers all night, they were able to get 60 of their 102 points from the paint. San Antonio continued to attack the Bucks’ defense, with Murray scoring 14 of his 23 points in the paint, Forbes scoring 10 of his 16 points in the paint, and Young scoring all 10 of his points in the paint.
Heading into the fourth quarter, the Spurs were outscoring the Bucks by 18 points in the paint, while the Bucks were winning the mid-range and 3-point scoring battles.
The more efficient shot, the paint, won out on this night, as that paint scoring was easier for San Antonio to sustain, while the Bucks couldn’t get hot on their jumpers.
After the game, Young said, “Every team is able to score, it’s about who is getting the easy buckets?”
Derrick White scored 9 of the teams 21 points from three on his way to 17 points. Keldon Johnson added 12 points, and though he struggled from outside, he got a key corner three to fall late in the game.
The problem for the Spurs coming into this game was executing and scoring down the stretch of a close game. This is where Murray became key for the team tonight.
Murray scored 16 of the Spurs’ 33 points in the fourth quarter, where he shot 6 of 8 from the floor, made a crucial pull-up three late, and he went to the free throw line to knock down 3 of 4 free throws.
After the game, he said he loves having the ball in his hands during those late game moments, whether to score for his team, or set up his teammates.
The Spurs improve to 2-4 on the season, 1-2 on the road, and 2-1 against the East after the win. Their next game will take place Monday in Indiana.