A late night of travel and LaMarcus Aldridge were simply too much for the Milwaukee Bucks.
Aldridge scored 29 points and claimed 15 rebounds, as the Spurs owned the second half for a 121-114 victory Sunday night at the AT&T Center.
Playing the second night of a back-to-back, the Bucks got off to a quick start. Milwaukee jumped to 15-point leads of 21-6 and 32-17 but faded from there. The Spurs scored the last eight points of the first quarter and won each of the last three quarters.
Aldridge made 7 of 11 field goals after the half, and four 3-pointers each from Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli helped the Spurs overcome their slow start.
The Bucks (50-17) saw their lead over Toronto trimmed to two games for the best record in the league and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
San Antonio improved to 38-29. The Spurs are in a virtual three-way tie for the sixth, seventh and eighth spots with the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers. Those three teams are four games ahead of the Sacramento Kings, who are in ninth place.
The Spurs own a 26-7 home record and had been off since Wednesday. The Bucks played Saturday night at home and did not get into their San Antonio hotel until 5 a.m. after a post-game flight.
They seemed to be shaking that off, though, as Khris Middleton’s 3-pointer gave them a 21-6 lead with 5:20 left in the first period. Pau Gasol’s 3-pointer gave the Bucks a 32-17 lead with 1:48 left in the first.
But the Spurs made closing each period strong their mark of the night. They scored the final eight points of the first period to cut it to 32-25.
After the Bucks pushed it back to a 57-45 lead on Khris Middleton’s layup with 2:59 left in the half, San Antonio closed with a 9-3 spurt to pull within 60-54 at the half.
San Antonio opened the third period with a 17-4 run — making it a 26-7 run when combined with the end of the second quarter — to take a 71-64 lead.
The Bucks responded with a 12-2 run — partly interrupted by a brief delay because of a bat flying around the court — but the Spurs closed the third period with a 14-7 run.
San Antonio opened the fourth quarter with a 10-1 run, and the Bucks were left to play a catch-up game they couldn’t win.
The Bucks never got closer than nine the rest of the way until Tony Snell’s meaningless 3-pointer at the buzzer.
DeMar DeRozan added 22 points to the San Antonio attack, and Mills and Belinelli each had 16.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 27 points and 13 rebounds. Eric Bledsoe chipped in 21, Khris Middleton added 15 and Pat Connaughton went 5 for 5, including four 3-pointers, for 14 points.
But shooting was a problem. Middleton went 6 for 15, and Malcolm Brogdon went 2 for 10.
The Bucks wouldn’t use fatigue as an excuse, but every single one of their seven missed free throws hit the front rim. That’s generally considered a sign of weakened legs. Another sign of some lacking energy? The Bucks’ defense only forced four turnovers.
The Bucks, who just finished a five-game road trip Monday, move on to New Orleans for Game 2 of a three-game trip on Tuesday. The trip concludes with a game at Miami Friday.