San Antonio Holds Playoff Position With Win At Milwaukee

By Ryan McCallum

Milwaukee is a decent team. At .500 on the year, now 34-34, they are in sixth place in the Eastern Conference and appear to be playoff bound. I’m building this foundation so that my next claim is more easily digested. This was a good win for San Antonio.

The Spurs are 8-2 in their last 10 games. They should have been 9-1, but after losing to the East’s bottom dwelling Knicks, San Antonio really needed this win to keep pace with the Western Conference middle tier that shuffle between third and seventh positioning in the playoff race with seemingly every game. While the Spurs are 12 games behind Golden State for the lead in the Conference, they are only three games back in the win column from third-place Houston.

As the Spurs bound toward the playoffs, we keep a watchful eye on the standings in hopes of willing the Spurs into the top half of the Conference. Aside from Golden State, who is good everywhere they play, there isn’t a Western Conference team that has a particularly great road record. That makes all teams susceptible to a first round loss. As expected, the good teams are also good at home. Getting into the top-four of the Conference lets San Antonio start the playoffs at home, and avoid a match up with Memphis or Golden State in that first round.

With that out of the way, we can focus on the game.

Coach Gregg Popovich juggled the need for rest with the playoff push masterfully. Aside from Tim Duncan, the front court rotation was weighted to the reserves. Boris Diaw saw 31 minutes of action, and San Antonio went small often, leaving Diaw to run an offense that would only include one starter for long stretches of the game. Even with Diaw at center San Antonio didn’t pair him with a true power forward. Jeff Ayers had an efficient showing with four points in six minutes. Even Reggie Williams and Kyle Anderson got on the floor.

Marco Belinelli looked fast in this game. He is relishing the opportunity to replace Manu Ginobili as the sixth man for San Antonio. Ginobili will be back from an injured ankle in approximately seven days. While Belinelli added only 11 points it was apparent that he was pacing the Spurs.

Despite going small for lengths of the game, the Spurs had 50 points in the paint. In the playoffs they will need to live here.

I had believed that Milwaukee center Zaza Pachulia would have been more impactful. However, San Antonio held him in check with only 10 points. No, the Bucks did little to impress. That was more a factor of Popovich outcoaching Bucks’ coach Jason Kidd, and a shooting performance by the Spurs that is a little more familiar, 50% from the field and 40% from behind the three-point line.

And they needed the win, and need the next one against Boston too. The mid-tier of the West again held serve. Dallas, the Clippers, and Houston each won their last game.