By Andrew Wagner, The Sports Xchange
MILWAUKEE -- On the final box score, it was a close game. Very close. Close enough that one might think San Antonio's biggest lead -- 21 points -- was a typo.
But the San Antonio Spurs' 117-110 victory over the Bucks on Wednesday at the BMO Harris Bradley Center wasn't close at all. The Spurs' seventh consecutive victory -- though requiring an extra effort from the Spurs' front line down the stretch -- was a runaway affair from the early moments.
The Spurs' precision pick-and-roll game buried the Bucks by as many as 21 points late in the second quarter. Tim Duncan scored 20 of his game-high 28 points in the first half on 7 of 12 shooting.
Milwaukee, meanwhile, committed nine turnovers -- seven in the first quarter -- which the Spurs turned into 10 points, shot just 36 percent in the first quarter and trailed 62-59 at halftime.
"We moved the ball great in the first half," San Antonio's Tony Parker said. "Timmy (Duncan) was knocking down his outside shot. When he's doing that, it opens things up for everybody."
The Bucks sprung to life in the second half, though, finishing the third quarter on a 7-1 run over the final 2:44 that cut the Spurs' lead to 93-81 heading into the fourth quarter, allowing Milwaukee to mount another late rally.
Brandon Jennings hit a jumper with 10 minutes left to bring Milwaukee within double digits, but the Spurs answered with a Danny Green 3-pointer. After Mike Dunleavy Jr. missed on a 3-point attempt, Duncan found Tiago Splitter underneath for a layup to make it 99-85 San Antonio. Following another Milwaukee misfire from beyond the arc, the Spurs got a 3-pointer from Parker to make it a 102-85 game with 8:32 left.
With the Spurs playing Thursday night in New York, head coach Gregg Popovich had hoped that the big lead would allow him to rest his starters, but the Bucks' surge brought San Antonio's ‘Big 3' of Duncan, Parker and Manu Ginobili back into the game to squash the rally.
"They came back like they have on everybody this season," Popovich said. "They never die. That's one thing about these guys. They've done it to a lot of teams -- a lot of good teams. They've come back on them and won. They did it again tonight. They put their head down and started driving and they got themselves back into the game. I was hoping I could get some guys a little more rest but [Milwaukee] didn't allow that."
Despite the slow start, the Bucks managed to shoot 48.9 percent for the game and got 31 points from Jennings and 18 and eight assists from Monta Ellis. Off the bench, John Henson scored a career-high 20 on 10 of 11 shooting and Dunleavy had 19 for Milwaukee.
However, 16 turnovers and a 5 of 17 effort from beyond the arc proved too much to overcome as the Bucks lost their second straight.
"They're a tough team," Jennings said. "They've been together for a very long time and they are able to play well together. Once they go on their runs, they tend to bury you. That's what happened tonight."
Duncan's offense paced a San Antonio offensive attack that made 46 of 89 shots from the field (51.7 percent) and hit nine of 17 3-pointers. Tony Parker pitched in with 23 points and 11 assists, and Manu Ginobili added 16 points as the Spurs won their seventh in a row.
NOTES: Milwaukee point guard Beno Udrih was held out of the game with a sore right ankle. He sprained the ankle Nov. 30 and missed 12 games but played the Bucks' last three despite lingering pain. ... San Antonio guard Gary Neal returned to action Wednesday after missing four games with a strained left calf. He scored 7 points in 13 minutes. ... The Bucks' Larry Sanders blocked Kawhi Leonard's shot with 9:03 left in the first quarter, giving him at least one block in 17 straight games, the second longest active streak in the NBA behind Tim Duncan, who has done it in 19 straight games. Sanders is second in the league with 2.96 blocks per game and has blocked at least one shot in 38 of the last 39 games. ... The Spurs won the first meeting between the two teams this season, a 110-99 victory on Dec. 5 in San Antonio, and have won six of the last seven against Milwaukee. ... Henson's 90.9 shooting percentage Wednesday was the highest by a Bucks rookie since Yi Jianlian made 14 of 17 against Cleveland on Dec. 22, 2007. ... Duncan recorded his 17th double-double of the season and ninth game of 20 points and 10 rebounds or more.