Milwaukee at San Antonio
Time: 8 PM CT (ESPN)
Spread: SAS -5.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Milwaukee Bucks have dropped its past four contests to fall to 4-6 on the season. The Bucks travel to face the San Antonio Spurs in an ESPN televised contest at 8 PM Central Friday night. Milwaukee is 5.5-point underdogs in a game with an over/under set at 205.5 points according to NBA oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes.
The Bucks most recently fell 124-119 to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Milwaukee has been getting MVP-caliber production from Giannis Antetokounmpo, though. The “Greek Freak” is averaging 31.9 points, 9.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 3.1 blocks/steals while posting a PER of 32.7. Khris Middleton is making an All-Star bid with 19.1 points, six rebounds and five assists per game in 36.9 minutes per game. Second-year guard Malcolm Brogdon is backing up his Rookie of the Year campaign with a strong sophomore season.
The former Virginia guard is averaging 16.2 points and five assists per game, and he’s seeing 33.6 minutes per contest. Adding to the high-minutes play is swingman Tony Snell, who averages 10 points in 33.6 minutes per game. The Bucks parted ways with Greg Monroe in acquiring Suns’ guard Eric Bledsoe. It is tough to see how Bledsoe fits into what Milwaukee is doing, but he is a clear talent upgrade if nothing else.
It may be that Giannis settles more into a secondary role with his playmaking, as Bledsoe is a premier creator. The Bucks were not satisfied with the fit that Greg Monroe had, and he as a bit of a misfit coming off the Bucks’ bench. Bledsoe is a clear starter, but what that means to the rest of the team is yet unclear. Antetokounmpo is coming off a 40 point, nine rebound, three assist outing against the Cavs, and he has scored 28 or more in four of his past five games. The Bucks clearly are his team, but Bledsoe will have a huge role once he settles into Milwaukee’s offense.
The San Antonio Spurs are 7-4 and in second place in the Southwest Division. The team has won its past three, with victories over the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Clippers, and the Charlotte Hornets. Prior to that, the Spurs had a four-game skid. Consistency is usually a hallmark of Gregg Popovich’s teams, but that seems to not be the case for San Antonio this season at least.
LaMarcus Aldridge leads the team in scoring at 22.6 points per game, but the team has been without star forward Kawhi Leonard, for the entire season. Rudy Gay is doing a Leonard impersonation with 13.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game, but the Spurs need its MVP caliber forward back in the fold. Second-year guard Dejounte Murray is looking like the natural successor to Tony Parker. Murray is averaging 8.5 points, six rebounds and three assists per game, while Patty Mills is good for 7.7 points and 3.4 assists in 24 minutes a game.
The Spurs average just 101.7 points per game as a team, but it averages 22.7 assists and 1.7 assists/turnovers. The team still has its patented ball movement, but it needs Leonard back in the fold to be anything near the threat that the Spurs typically are. Pau Gasol is falling off fast, but the Spaniard still averages 10.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.55 blocks per game in 25 minutes per contest.
The Spurs are making the most of swingman Kyle Anderson, who is functioning in a Boris Diaw-like role often, averaging 7.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.2 assists in 26 minutes a night. Popovich’s hallmark for maximizing talents remains constant, but the Spurs are working with something of a talent deficiency, and the departed pieces from last season are thriving on their new clubs (Jonathon Simmons and Dewayne Dedmon, notably).
The Spurs usually groom talents and they proceed to flop elsewhere, but Simmons and Dedmon have only improved their prospects. It is a strange new phenomenon, but the Spurs will eventually make Murray into the league’s next great playmaker, while Leonard will keep this team contending for many seasons to come.