Dicey defense dooms Spurs in loss to Bucks

SAN ANTONIO -- The San Antonio Spurs racked up 100-plus points for the 15th consecutive outing Tuesday night, marking the club’s longest such streak since 1995, when they accomplished the feat in 22 straight contests.

Too bad the defensive production in San Antonio’s 109-107 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks failed to line up with its offensive output.

“Well, we didn’t want the game to come down to who makes a shot at the end of the game,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “They made a 3, and we didn’t. The problem was that we didn’t guard very well. In general, our defense was not up to par. They took advantage of it, and they did a great job offensively.”

Michael Beasley inflicted the majority of the damage against the Spurs, coming off the bench to score 22 of his 28 points in the second half, including a game-high 10 points in the fourth quarter.

With Giannis Antetokounmpo playing just nine minutes upon returning from an undisclosed illness, Beasley stepped up to fill the void for Milwaukee. Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge also missed Tuesday's contest because of a bout with gastroenteritis.

“He was terrific,” Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon said of Beasley. “He was the heart and soul for us tonight. We leaned on him like we lean on Giannis, and he came through. He stepped up. When one man goes [down], someone has to step up.”

That's precisely what Brogdon did in nailing a 23-footer with 1:08 to play, giving Milwaukee a 108-107 lead that it would never relinquish.

Still with 6.7 seconds remaining, the Spurs harbored hopes of rallying. Kawhi Leonard drove through the teeth of Milwaukee’s defense, drawing defenders into the paint before dishing to the corner to a wide open Manu Ginobili, who was calling for the ball. Ginobili’s open 3-point attempt ricocheted off the top corner of the backboard with one second remaining, allowing the Bucks to hold on to the victory.

“I was wide open,” Ginobili said. “Terrible shot. But Kawhi made a great play, a very good play. Today, I was not feeling good, not physically, my game. I was having a poor game, and that was a great finish for a bad game.”

Popovich mentioned the Spurs' coaching staff discussed with the players during the second half that “if we keep letting them score like that, we’re going to have a big problem, because it’s going to come down to who makes a shot at the end, and that can always go either way.”

This time, basketball fate tipped in favor of Milwaukee, which shot 52.4 percent from the field and made 10 of 19 3-point attempts. But San Antonio played a role in it, considering the Spurs led by as many as 13 points.

The Spurs led by nine just before intermission, but a Leonard foul sent Brogdon to the free throw line, where he knocked down three in a row to cut San Antonio’s lead to 59-53.

Leonard said he knew the Spurs had a foul to give, but he reached in on Brogdon as he launched a shot from half court.

“When they got those three free throws when I fouled … that’s how the game goes sometimes,” Leonard said. “They know that we’re gonna foul if we have a foul to give, but things happen.”

The Spurs opened the second quarter on a 13-2 run, with Leonard scoring 11 points to take a 36-25 lead with 8 minutes, 54 seconds remaining before intermission.

Spurs center Pau Gasol said Milwaukee “ran the same two plays 80 percent of the time.” Yet, San Antonio struggled to slow down the Bucks, who also got 22 points from Jabari Parker and 17 from Brogdon.

“We’re supposed to be a pretty good defensive team, and that’s not just one player, not two players, but the entire team working together and being in sync on the floor,” Gasol said. “A guy can score one time, maybe twice on a certain play. But that’s it. Someone has to do something to get the ball out of his hands, to not concede those types of plays and those types of points. We just let it keep rolling and paid the price.”

The Spurs entered the game ranked No. 1 in the NBA in defensive efficiency and hadn’t allowed 100-plus points since Jan. 1, when they fell 114-113 to the Atlanta Hawks in overtime. San Antonio is now 8-3 on the season when it allows 100 points or more and 15-3 when it scores 100 or more.

“Disappointed in our defense tonight,” Popovich said. “But Milwaukee was aggressive for 48 minutes, played hard, executed, did a great job. You’ve got to guard them. If you don’t guard them, you’re in trouble and you’ve got to hope you score. So we scored decently. But like I said, down the stretch, you can make or miss a shot.”