SAN ANTONIO – In the end, it wasn't 6-foot-11 wunderkind Giannis Antetokounmpo who was the biggest factor in the Milwaukee Bucks' 94-87 victory over the Spurs on Friday night.
To be sure, Antetokounmpo was outstanding, finishing with 28 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and four blocks in 36 minutes. But the Silver and Black lost because they committed too many turnovers to sustain any semblance of an offense.
Struggling against Milwaukee's length for most of the game, San Antonio finished with 18 turnovers that the Bucks cashed in for 16 points.
"We can't turn the ball over the way we're constituted right now," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "Every time we have a high turnover game, we are going to have problems. I thought they showed better composure than we did down the stretch. They got some good shots.
"We hustled, got it back to two, started off the third quarter poorly with four turnovers, so we didn't execute very well -- a little bit sloppy, too many defensive errors. About three or four people made defensive errors that allowed them (Bucks) to get some threes that shouldn't happen."
The Spurs, who had won three in a row after breaking out of a four-game skid last week, slipped to 7-5. The Bucks snapped out of a four-game funk themselves, improving to 5-6.
LaMarcus Aldridge led the Spurs' scoring with 20 points, but he had only six in the second half. Aldridge had one of his best starts of the season, going 4 for 4 from the field in the first quarter and scoring 10 points. Aldridge, who made 8 of 14 shots, also finished with a game-high 12 rebounds.
"We forgot a little about L.A, (Aldridge)," Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. "We couldn't fit him. We should have used him way more."
Ginobili finished with a season-high 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting, and added three assists and two steals. Patty Mills, who nailed 4 of 11 three-pointers, had 14 points and Kyle Anderson finished with 10.
Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe, who was just traded from the Suns to the Bucks, each finished with 13 points for Milwaukee.
Spurs center Pau Gasol also talked about the team's turnovers.
"We understood that this team is aggressive on the strong side," he said. "They are athletic, they play with their hands. So you have to make sure you're strong with your passes, you come out ready to catch the ball and you secure it.
"You make the ball move and make them pay for that over-aggressiveness. We did some in the first half but, unfortunately, we did turn it over way too many times and they capitalized. That's where they're most dangerous, forcing those turnovers and then getting on the (fast) break and Giannis being able to finish over anyone."
San Antonio led 47-46 at halftime, but their four turnovers at the start of the third quarter sparked a 24-9 Milwaukee run that put the Bucks up 70-56 with 3:08 left in the period. The Spurs fought back and cut the deficit to 76-70 on a three-pointer by Ginobili in the closing seconds of the quarter.
But the Silver and Black never were able to reclaim the lead. They drew to within two, 89-87, when Ginobili completed a three-point with 2:26 remaining, but Eric Bledsoe hit a shot with 1:40 left to put the Bucks up by four.
Ginobili pointed to the turnovers after the game.
"Very disappointing," he said. "They (Bucks) started to deny more. They started to pre-rotate and that got us into trouble. Then we adjusted and we figured it out, but it was kind of late. They were already confident. They made some tough shots.
"It is very hard to win an NBA game with 18 turnovers. We still held them under 100. We gave them 18 rxtra possessions, and they still scored under 100. In that sense, it was positive. But offensively, we were terrible."
The Spurs shot 42.5 percent overall (34/80) and 31 percent (9/29) from the 3-point line. The Bucks were 46.1 percent (41/89) from the field and made 27.8 percent (5/18) of their shots from beyond the arc.
SPURS GAMEDAY: Silver and Black braced for NBA's 'Unstoppable Force'
Milwaukee Bucks (4-6) vs. Spurs (7-4)
When, where: 8 p.m., Friday, AT&T Center
Season series: First meeting
Last meeting: Bucks 109, Spurs 107, Jan. 10, 2017, AT&T Center
Bucks' last game: Lost to Cavaliers 124-119, Tuesday, Cleveland
Spurs’ last game: Beat Clippers 120-107, Tuesday, AT&T Center
Notable: The Spurs now have 500 victories at the AT&T Center since moving to the facility in 2002, the most home wins of any team in the NBA during that span.
SAN ANTONIO – Back on track after winning three in a row, the Spurs will face the NBA’s leading scorer when the Milwaukee Bucks come calling Friday night.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, a 6-foot-11 wunderkind who does about everything but fly the Bucks’ plane, is averaging 31.9 points in his fifth NBA season. Selected by the Bucks with the 15th overall pick of the 2013 NBA draft, Antetokounmpo can play point guard, shooting guard, small forward and power forward.
Called the NBA’s "Unstoppable Force" by Sports Illustrated, Antetokounmpo has a 7-foot wingspan that makes him imposing on both ends of the court.
The Spurs (7-4) continue their six-game homestand Friday night against the Bucks (4-6). The Silver and Black have won three in a row since starting the homestand with a 20-point loss to defending league champion Golden State last Thursday.
Friday night’s game is the front of a back-to-back for the Spurs, who host Chicago on Saturday before going back on the road next week.
“I haven’t watched him this year, but I’ve check the numbers,” veteran San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili said. “I never thought he was going to be like a 30-point-a-game scorer. He’s incredible. His length, his athleticism, it’s just off the charts. He’s able to get from one side of the court to the other in five steps, so it’s a big advantage.
“He’s really finding his way. Even without having a reliable three-point shot, it’s not a factor yet because he still can get there and he’s creating for others. He’s a defensive force, so a difference maker for sure.”
The Spurs and Bucks split their two games last year, with the visiting team winning both. Antetokounmpo had 22 points and 11 rebounds in the Silver and Black’s 97-96 victory last Dec. 5, but did not score in Milwaukee’s 109-107 win on Jan. 10 at the AT&T Center. He was ill and played only nine minutes.
Antetokounmpo, who was born in Athens, Greece, made the All-Star team for the first time last season. He had 30 points and nine rebounds in the Bucks’ 124-119 road loss to Cleveland on Tuesday night. Antetokounmpo has scored at least 28 points in nine of Milwaukee’s 10 games.
“I think everyone is seeing and understanding and realizing how great of an athlete this kid is, how much he’s worked to taking his game to the next level, and kind of accepting Kobe’s (Bryant) challenge on Twitter of being the next MVP,” veteran Spurs center/forward Pau Gasol said. “I think that gave him a little boost. He’s a threat.
“He’s a guy that’s very aggressive right now. He’s 22 years old. He’s got all the energy in the world. We’re going to have to be ready for it when the time comes, prepare, and try to stop him as best we can.”
The Spurs are coming off a 120-107 victory against the Los Angeles Clippers. Trailing by three at the half, the Silver and Black scored a season-high 40 points in the third quarter to take control of the game. They scored 26 points in the last six minutes of the period.
San Antonio shot 53.6 percent (45/84) for the game and finished with 33 assists. The Spurs have come out with more fire offensively in the third quarters of their last three games, averaging 35.5 points. They averaged 25.5 points in the period in their first eight games.
“We’re waking up, understanding that we’ve got to tighten up defensively and we’ve got to set the tone,” Gasol said. “We’re at home and we give up 55 points (in the first half to the Clippers). I think it comes from a point of understanding, hey guys, we’re down. We’re giving up too much and we’re not going to win like that.
“You have 48 minutes, so we’ve got to come out with a little more of an edge and a mindset defensively of, hey, let’s make sure we don’t put ourselves in a hole that we might not be able to climb out of it.”
All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard and veteran point guard Tony Parker, sidelined as they continue to rehab quad injuries, have yet to play this season. Backup center Joffrey Lauvergne has missed the last eight games after spraining his right ankle.
Up next for the Spurs after Friday's game: vs. Chicago, Saturday, 7:30 p.m., AT&T Center
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