Two teams at opposite ends of the standings will meet Wednesday when the Milwaukee Bucks face the visiting San Antonio Spurs.
Milwaukee (51-20) has won 22 of its past 25 games and owns the NBA’s best record, while San Antonio (19-53) is battling with the Detroit Pistons and the Houston Rockets for the league’s worst record.
The Bucks are looking to split the season series after San Antonio won 111-93 at home on Nov. 11. Playing without injured stars Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton, the Bucks were held to 32.7 percent shooting in the loss. Keldon Johnson scored 29 points to lead the Spurs, while Jevon Carter paced Milwaukee with 21 points.
Milwaukee is in a much healthier place for the rematch. The Big Three are back, and Joe Ingles, who also was out for the November meeting, has become as a key cog in the Bucks’ charge toward the Eastern Conference’s top seed.
Middleton and Ingles combined for 26 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in Milwaukee’s 118-111 victory over the visiting Toronto Raptors on Sunday.
“It’s great to have two 6-8 wings — it makes a difference,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “They’re long and can cover a lot of ground to some degree without moving. They’re both smart and have a toughness to them. Those guys are getting some minutes together, and it’s been great to watch.”
Over his past three games, Middleton is averaging 22.3 points, seven assists and four rebounds while shooting 51.2 percent overall and 47.6 percent from 3-point range.
Milwaukee also received another stellar effort from center Brook Lopez, who scored a team-high 26 points against the Raptors. Since the All-Star break, the veteran is averaging 20.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.8 blocks while shooting 56.9 percent.
“He’s kind of the anchor of this team,” Holiday said. “He’s the guy that defends everybody. I know that if I get beat, I’m leaving him to Brook. And then offensively, man, it’s just like whenever we need him, he’ll always be there.”
Lopez has a favorable matchup against the short-handed Spurs, who have dropped six of their past nine games. San Antonio began a four-game road trip with a 119-84 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday.
The Spurs played without Johnson (neck), along with Charles Bassey, Khem Birch, Jeremy Sochan and Devin Vassell, who all sat out due to knee injuries. San Antonio was also minus center Zach Collins, who received a rest day.
“I knew it was going to be very difficult,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “We started off pretty well, but as the game went along, (New Orleans) did a great job. We didn’t have our best night. They played well. End of story.”
One bright spot was the play of forward Sandro Mamukelashvili, who scored a team-high 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting.
Guard Devonte’ Graham returned after missing two games due to left quad tendon soreness and scored 15 points in 24 minutes off the bench.
Acquired from the Pelicans on Feb. 9, Graham is averaging 17.6 points and 4.3 assists in seven games this month.
“He’s a professional,” Popovich said. “He knows his way around the court. He’s been a real joy to have.”