As was expected by the majority of Bucks fans, the young Bucks struggled and lost big to the always-profound San Antonio Spurs. Milwaukee held around for a little bit, but eventually was just outmatched by the pure basketball intelligence that the Spurs possess. Let’s dive into the game and look at some of the tidbits we gained from it.
The Bucks need to complete comebacks and limit runs by opponents. The habit that seems to occur every game continued last night in San Antonio. The game will be close, but then the Bucks defense will falter and crack, allowing opponents to take advantage of them. Milwaukee was able to cut the Spurs lead to 50-44 after a solid start coming out of the halftime break. However, Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard combined to propel the Spurs to a 15-1 run and retained a large lead at 65-45. Jason Kidd hinted at the unfortunate habit in his post game comments, saying that five or six points is the magic number where the defense seems to stop playing. This team has shown it can climb out of deep holes. They just need to figure out how to complete the comebacks. With youth, that level of consistency can be tough to continue for such a long period. However, consistency is key to making comebacks in the league. It requires in-depth concentration on both sides of the ball, offense and defense. Last night the Bucks almost had it solved, but tripped up once again on defense and allowed San Antonio to retain momentum once again. The Bucks don’t want to be in this position, but when they are, they have shown that they can finish off comeback attempts. They just need to figure out how to consistently do it.
San Antonio carved up Milwaukee’s defense not by scoring, but by passing. Going into the game, the Spurs coaches noted that the only way they were going to beat the Bucks’ length was by sharp and crisp passes. Well, they followed through on that game plan. The Bucks defense was constantly confused by San Antonio’s ball movement, especially in the first half. Nearly everyone who touched the leather on the Spurs seemed to get rid of the ball as if it was a hot potato. That left the Bucks defense flustered and struggling to figure out any effective ways of communication, leaving unmarked men all around the floor. Fluent ball movement on the perimeter by the Spurs would eventually fluctuate into an open passing lane to the big men down low, which the Bucks conceded too much of. The end result was 48 points in the paint for the Spurs. Plain and simple, the Bucks struggled to make rotations and were just unable to keep up with the speed of the Spurs passing. San Antonio ended up with 25 assists which translated soundly into their 95 points.
Jerryd Bayless not playing was strictly a coach’s decision. This is the second time a Bucks player has been benched with the only reasoning that exists being coach’s decision. However, we aren’t as shocked as we were when it last happened, which was last season when Giannis Antetokounmpo was benched. Last night, Tyler Ennis received the start over Jerryd Bayless. Although the exact reason as to why Bayless was benched remains unclear, it is clear that he is using it to send a message. As to what that exact message is remains a mystery. In the offseason, Jared Dudley joined ESPN’s Zach Lowe for an interview on Lowe’s podcast. Lowe asked him to reflect on the time Kidd benched Giannis, as the reason he was benched still was unclear. Dudley was unsure on the exact rationale, but remembered it had something to do with an occurrence in practice. Dudley said that one of Kidd’s signature characteristics was always running a tight ship. Thus, with that information, we can only assume at this point that Kidd was attempting to send a message to Jerryd Bayless. Again, the exact circumstances that led up to it remain bleak and will probably remain that way. It is unlikely that Bayless gets benched Friday in Detroit. If he does, then it would be time to worry.
Although the Bucks did not have things go their way in San Antonio, it’s imperative for them to figure things out – and fast. The month of December is going to be an absolute minefield, including a stretch of three consecutive games against the Clippers, Raptors and Warriors. Milwaukee needs to put this loss behind them and focus on the games in front of them. If they don’t start heading north fast, they will be dropping south and will be digging themselves in a deeper hole. The holiday season is looking to be an ultimate test.