Suddenly, the San Antonio Spurs are having trouble with the Central Division.
The Spurs will try reverse the trend when they visit the Milwaukee Bucks at the Bradley Center.
Four of San Antonio’s last five losses have come against teams in the Central Division, including a 98-96 setback to the New Orleans Hornets on Saturday night.
In the last nine days, San Antonio also has lost to Central teams Atlanta, Indiana and Detroit.
The Spurs blew an 18-point third-quarter lead on Saturday, losing to a Hornets team with only nine players and leading scorer Baron Davis out. It was just the second home loss to an Eastern Conference opponent this season for San Antonio.
“We couldn’t ask for more,” Ginobili said of his team’s 18-point lead. “They got confident making shots and we stopped playing.”
Malik Rose scored 20 points after missing the last two with a sprained ankle, and Tim Duncan added 17 points and 13 rebounds for the Spurs, who are two games behind Midwest Division-leading Minnesota.
The Bucks look to sweep their three-game homestand following a 98-96 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Friday night.
Reserve guard Desmond Mason scored a team-leading 20 points and Michael Redd helped hold Toronto’s Vince Carter to just eight points on 4-of-12 shooting, as Milwaukee won for the first time in three games.
Redd, coming off a career-high 40-point outing against Orlando, scored just 10 points but neutralized Carter, who was playing in his first game since injuring his quadriceps.
“I want to be an all-around player,” said Redd, whose 21.7 points per game is seventh in the NBA. “I don’t want to be one-dimensional, just a scorer, an offensive killer. I don’t want to be scored on. I hate being scored on.”
The Bucks are 9-3 over their last 12 games, but still remain 7 1/2 games behind division-leading Indiana. Milwaukee has won 12 of 13 games at the Bradley Center, and is 17-5 here—tied for second-best home record in the East.
STANDINGS (through Jan. 24): Spurs - 2nd place, 2 GB, Midwest Division. Bucks - 4th place, 7 1/2 GB, Central Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Spurs - Duncan, 22 ppg and 12.7 rpg; Parker, 5.4 apg. Bucks - Redd, 21.7 ppg; Smith, 8.6 rpg; Ford, 6.4 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Spurs, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Dec. 28; Spurs, 89-74. At San Antonio, Ginobili finished with 25 points, one off his season high, in leading the Spurs to their 13th straight victory and holding Milwaukee to a season low in points. Parker scored nine of his 12 points in the final two minutes.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Spurs - 12-10 on the road; Bucks - 17-5 at home.