The Milwaukee Bucks and San Antonio Spurs have been hit hard by injuries to some of their top players during the season's first month.
So far, the Bucks have done a better job of overcoming the situation.
Brandon Jennings looks to help lead Milwaukee to its eighth victory in nine games Monday night when it visits the Spurs, who will try to build on their first win in a week and a half.
The Bucks (8-3) have been one of the biggest surprises in the early going, climbing to the top of the Central Division with the franchise's best start since going 9-1 in 2001-02.
Their record is startling considering guard Michael Redd and center Andrew Bogut have missed time with injuries. Redd is expected to return soon from a left knee injury that has kept him out nine games, while Bogut is expected to miss two to four weeks with a left leg strain suffered in Wednesday's 99-85 win over New Jersey.
With the two stars out, Jennings has been the main reason the team has won three in a row and seven of eight.
The rookie scored 24 of his 26 points after halftime in a 103-98 win over Memphis on Saturday. Jennings is averaging 31.0 points on 54.1 percent shooting (20 of 37) from 3-point range in the last six games, and leads first-year players with 25.3 points and 5.5 assists per contest.
Jennings hasn't been the only Milwaukee player to step up in the wake of all the injuries.
Charlie Bell had a season-high 19 points Saturday, Ersan Ilyasova finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds and reserve Luke Ridnour added 13 points and a season-high 12 assists.
"We had a lot of guys contribute, which is what we need right now," coach Scott Skiles said.
While Milwaukee is overcoming its injury woes, San Antonio hasn't had the same success.
Tim Duncan (left ankle), Tony Parker (left ankle) and Manu Ginobili (left groin) have missed time for the Spurs (5-6), who had their first losing record at the 10-game mark since 1996-97.
Ginobili's injury is likely to keep him until later this week. Parker played for the second time in six games Saturday, scoring 17 points in a 106-84 victory over Washington that snapped a three-game losing streak.
It was San Antonio's first win since beating Dallas on Nov. 11, but Duncan said it felt like the team's first in a year and a half.
Duncan, who has played in four straight games after missing two, had 16 points and nine rebounds against the Wizards and hopes the win will spark a turnaround.
"We have to try to get a streak going," the 11-time All-Star said.
Improvements on the defensive end could help San Antonio get back on track.
Usually solid defensively, the Spurs have been marginal so far, giving up an average of 97.5 points. San Antonio, though, limited the Wizards to an opponent season-low 33.3 percent shooting and held a team to less than 90 points for only the second time this season.
San Antonio will need to come up with another stout defensive effort against a Milwaukee team averaging 107.0 points in its last seven games.
The Bucks swept the 2008-09 season series from the Spurs. Richard Jefferson, acquired by San Antonio in the offseason, averaged 13.5 points and 9.0 rebounds in the two games for Milwaukee.
No Asterisks in this life, it's all about scoreboard - Ari Gold
Spurs win this game. Not going to be that easy though. Bucks will put up some good fight.
Spurs win baby!
Go Spurs Go
Go Spurs FO Go! Grade A for key pick ups this summer!
NBA.com - Referee Assignments
Nov 23, 2009
Milwaukee @ San Antonio--Steve Javie; Eric Dalen; Pat Fraher
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---Winston Churchill (1903)
I have to agree, the Bucks are one of several perennial sub-500 teams that always seem to have the Spurs number, taking one or more wins each year. But the Bucks are doing well out of the gate. I knew Bogurt was injured but had no idea Redd was out. If the Spurs win this one, it will be close. I can’t go against the home team, regardless.
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