Long before he returned to the Spurs in mid-March, forward Stephen Jackson already had contributed in a major way to the steady defensive improvement that helped his future old team secure the top seed in the Western Conference.

By torching the Spurs for 34 points in the Bucks' 106-103 victory in Milwaukee on Jan. 10, Jackson provided Gregg Popovich a teachable moment the Spurs coach deemed worthy of hyperbole.

At the time, Popovich declared this was "the worst defensive team we've ever had," a criticism calculated to grab the attention of players he feared had become overly reliant with an uptempo offense that was producing more points than nearly every other team in the NBA.