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Spurs, Bucks square off in key battle for postseason seedings

The San Antonio Spurs will return to the Alamo City — not necessarily a good thing — to host the surging Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night in a key battle for postseason seedings.

The home court has been anything but good for the Spurs this season, who’ve stumbled to a 13-20 home record. But with three games left in their own building, San Antonio has to reverse that trend, and in a hurry.

The Spurs are coming off a 124-102 loss in Portland on Saturday. San Antonio (32-35), which was playing the second game of a road back-to-back, dropped its sixth game in its past seven outings.

DeMar DeRozan paced the Spurs with 20 points, while Lonnie Walker IV scored 18, Dejounte Murray 15 and Rudy Gay 11 in the loss.

San Antonio was up by nine points early but lost the lead by the end of the first quarter and never saw the front after regaining a one-point advantage five minutes into the second period. The Spurs were outshot 46.4 percent to 39.8 percent from the floor and outrebounded 63-40 while surrendering 18 offensive boards.

“I’ve got no gripes about their effort, really appreciate their hustle,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said about his team. “But we just got to get more gang rebounding.”

Despite the loss, the Spurs — who have five games left — still have a near-lock on the 10th spot in the standings and the final position in the Nos. 7-10 play-in tournament for the final two Western Conference spots in the postseason.

San Antonio is two games up on New Orleans for the 10th spot and is two games behind Memphis for the ninth position. All five of the Spurs’ remaining games are against teams with winning records.

“We’ve had so many ups and downs, injuries, this whole COVID situation, travel, we can find every excuse in the world,” DeRozan said. “We’re still sitting here with an opportunity to find a way to continue playing.”

The Bucks will travel south after a 141-133 win at home over Houston on Friday. Milwaukee, currently third in the Eastern Conference behind Philadelphia and Brooklyn, has won five straight games and eight of its past 10 and is peaking at the right time.

The Bucks, a half-game behind Brooklyn in the standings, owns the tiebreaker with the Nets should the two teams end the regular season tied.

“Looking at the big picture, it would be nice to have the No. 2 seed, but I don’t think it will be the end of the world if we don’t,” Bucks guard Khris Middleton said after Friday’s win. “I think the main focus for us is to find a way for us to play our best basketball going into the playoffs and ride that momentum.”

Seven players scored in double figures for Milwaukee against Houston, including all five starters. Brook Lopez had 24 points, Middleton added 23, and Giannis Antetokounmpo had 17 points and 11 rebounds despite not playing the final 4 1/2 minutes.

The Bucks have five games remaining — three on the road. Milwaukee has two back-to-backs still to play, and both include games at home and on the road.

“I don’t care about second (place),” Antetokounmpo said. “It does not matter. All that matters is building good habits and playing good basketball. Guys are playing great. That’s all I care about. Just seeing my teammates playing the right way. Enjoying the game. Having fun. Being in the right place. Playing confident. Everything else will take care of itself.”

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