Spurs brace for league-best Bucks
The San Antonio Spurs have enjoyed a three-day break since capturing their fourth straight victory and snapping a three-game road losing streak.
Now, a tough test awaits as San Antonio (37-29) welcomes the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks (50-16) to its home court.
San Antonio's defense, both on the floor and in protecting their home building, will be front and center. Heading up the Spurs' defense will be Derrick White, who's job this year has been to shadow and limit the production from opponents' perimeter playmakers and scorers.
White racked up with 18 points, nine assists, six rebounds and six blocks for San Antonio in Wednesday's 111-104 victory in Atlanta. He became one of just two guards in NBA history to post those numbers (Tracy McGrady in 2000).
"His improvement, the things that he is doing, it all seems effortless," San Antonio guard DeMar DeRozan told the San Antonio Express-News about White. "It's pretty cool to see."
Partially reflected in White's stat line is his tenacious work on defense, the aspect of his game that the team has leaned heavily on for the season.
"The significant drop in defense we've had when he's been injured says a lot," Spurs guard Patty Mills said about White's work. "Derrick has been able to provide some presence on the defensive end (on the perimeter)."
San Antonio is 25-7 at home and has won seven straight games in the AT&T Center, matching its longest streak of the season. The Spurs have had at least 25 home wins in 37 of the 43 seasons since joining the NBA in 1976, most of any team in the league during that span.
Milwaukee heads to the Alamo City on the heels of a 131-114 win over Charlotte late Saturday, their second straight win after two losses.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 26 points and 13 rebounds in the win while Brook Lopez scored 25 and Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic added 18 points each.
With Saturday's victory, the Bucks continued their dominance against the Eastern Conference, improving to 34-8. Milwaukee went 3-1 against both Toronto and Indiana this season and 2-1 with Boston, three of the four teams immediately behind them in the conference standings.
"It's great, and we've got to do it again though in the playoffs," Bucks forward Khris Middleton told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this week. "We're going to see any one of these teams and we have to play the same way if not harder -- probably harder, better, smarter. But it's good to get those series against those teams."
Sunday's contest is the first of three-game road trip that will see the Bucks also travel to New Orleans and Miami.
It also marks the return to San Antonio for Bucks center Pau Gasol, who negotiated a contract buyout with the Spurs on March 1 and joined Milwaukee two days later. Gasol, an 18-year-veteran, spend almost three seasons in San Antonio, but had played in just 27 games this year, averaging 4.2 points and 4.7 rebounds per contest.
Because Gasol agreed to a contract before March 1 deadline, he is eligible to play for the Bucks in the playoffs.
"The Spurs, I have to be thankful for them and to them as well for allowing me to get out with enough time to be able to sign with the Bucks," Gasol said. "If we had waited another 20, 30 minutes, it would have been no go."
The Bucks have played two games, and flown 1,100 miles south, since San Antonio played a game, so fatigue could be a factor on Sunday.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 10, 2019