New Orleans 91, San Antonio 102


R.C. Buford and Gregg Popovich may still be combing the waiver wire and developmental league to fill their 13th roster spot following the unexpected release of Michael Finley, but in all likelihood the Spurs best chance of improving or adding another rotation player lies internally.

Matt Bonner, finding time in the rotation once again with Antonio McDyess out due to injury, paired with Keith Bogans to complement the Big Three in one of the Spurs’ most balanced performances of the season. Seven players scored in double figures and the Spurs won their third game in a row, putting space between them and the 9th and 10th seed as they look to extend their winning streak in Memphis tonight.

“We’ll see if we can keep our rhythm going,” Popovich said. “It’s real important this time of year to try to do that. It will build our confidence and build some consistency.”

Building confidence and consistency is something Bonner has struggled with since returning from his broken hand. After hitting a few shots last game, the king of +/- was back to his winning ways (+8), providing some reliable outside shooting the Spurs have lacked over stretches this year, as Tim Varner pointed out:

It’s a bigger story than simply Bonner. It’s one of those truth by synecdoche moments. The thing San Antonio has lacked this season, perhaps more than anything else, even more than lock down defense, is reliable shooting.

In the early weeks of the season, I drew attention to this problem and labeled it San Antonio’s silent shooting slump. At the time I explained away the problem as too many new faces, too little rhythm. But, of course, that kite doesn’t fly. Not anymore.

The Spurs have a .361 3pt% this season, which isn’t terrible.  It still ranks in the league’s top 10. But if the Spurs were two or three percent more accurate, they’d be a much better team, and for the reasons Winston cited above. Less transition baskets for opponents, better shots for the guys in white hats, and a higher eFG%.  In other words, San Antonio would be considerably more efficient on both sides of the ball.

Bonner entered the game with just under six minutes remaining in the first quarter and promptly hit a three on his way to 4-8 shooting for 12 points. Bonner has been an easy scape goat for many fans, but in a 15-20 minute role similar to what he played last night, he can be a valuable asset.

The Spurs were 12-20 from the three-point line, and with Bonner spacing the floor the Hornets defense had further to recover to, resulting in several open three-poiners and driving lanes  off of the improved ball movement provided by the Red Rocket’s spacing.

But it’s rarely the offensive end where fans criticize Bonner. David West is one of the most difficult match-ups in the game and through the first half I tallied several good defensive possessions by Bonner. Then I looked at the box score and West is 6-for-6 from the field.

Few would claim that 22 points on 11-19 shooting is limiting a player, but West could have done a lot more damage. Sometimes defense cannot be judged by the shots an opponent makes, but instead, by the shots that the opponent is prevented from taking.

And for a player that was not missing a shot, six attempts is a low number. Sure, West hit a few difficult jumpers, but for the most part Bonner was able to funnel West into the help, forcing him into a traveling violation and several harmless passes that gained no advantage.

West’s line is further mitigated by the struggles of his teammates. Only three Hornets scored in double figures (West, Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton) and no other player scored more than five points.

Stojakovic in particular struggled last night, finishing with three points on 1-for-10 shooting.

“We did a good job on Peja Stojakovic, that’s always a big key for us,” Popovich said. “Keith Bogans did a wonderful job and when Richard Jefferson had him, he did a good job. I thought that was important.”

Bogans, like Bonner, has been an easy scapegoat for Spurs fans and some statistical analysis suggests that he has been one of the Spurs least effective defenders. 

For a night, however, Bogans was everything the Spurs envisioned, switching between Stojakovic and a red-hot Marcus Thornton while providing an offensive spark of his own (15 points, 4-6 from the 3-point line).

“I get up a lot of shots in practice, and when I made my first couple, my teammates did a good job of finding me when I was open,” Bogans said.

The Spurs have a short turnaround tonight, having flown to Memphis right after the game. A win tonight could go a long way towards buying the Spurs some time to rest Tim Duncan for the playoffs.

That, and the reemergence of Bonner as a viable rotation player.

  • rj

    went to the game. i was impressed with bonner taking it upon himself to penetrate and create for others. not the most athletic guy, but smart. very smart. i was baffled by how an okafor/ west front court could be so disapointing. orlando picking howard first proved to be a fail-safe move.

    tony looked a little hobbled out there covering collison. mahinmi was pretty disapointing in garbage time. the offense looked discombobulated when he was on the floor. he didn’t set any screens which led to over-dribbling and turnovers. and in hairston’s 1.6 seconds of 1st round action, he deflected the inbounds pass. that’s using the most of your floor time 😀

    we are starting to look promising

    go spurs!

  • B.D.

    Would it be possible to have Bonner play some SF in a big lineup, alongside Duncan and Blair/McDyess at the 4/5?

    The release of Fin may end up being a classic example of addition by subtraction.

  • John

    Nice win. The Hornets aren’t a playoff team, but every win counts, especially these ones that we just absolutely have to have before we get to the ridiculously hard part of our schedule. The Spurs didn’t reassert themselves as a contender last night, but at least they’re keeping pace with the Thunder and staying in front of the Blazers. Now we’ve gotta collect a win tonight too; the Grizzlies aren’t bad, but it only gets harder from here.

  • rj

    i should have noted bonner’s defense. him and west are very similar in physical stature, with the exception of west’s superior lateral quickness. i am impressed with his discipline in not biting of up-fakes and crosses.

    he is a valuble role player. sorry for dogging you, matty

  • bayareaspursfan

    Good to see spurs put together a little winning streak. Seems like we are starting to turn the corner. But it still seems like we need to work on execution. Normally the spurs wont shoot over 50 percent from 3 point range. In my opinion thats the reason we won was due to our hot shooting from 3 point range. I would like us to win on suffocating defense and proper half court offensive execution which is more reliable than hoping for 3’s to fall.

    @rj. I thought I saw mahinmi set some screens. Were they solid screens? Most likely not. But he was coming all the way out to 3 point line to attempt setting the screens. Also do you think its fair to judge a player that sat for 46 minutes of game time and comes in at the end? Would like to see Ian get some minutes here and there during the game in a normal flow to see what he can add.

  • spursfanbayarea

    Sorry, posted last comment under bayareaspursfan. Should have been posted under spursfanbayarea. Still early in morning. Need some coffee.

  • OneWing

    My GF and I, every time we see Bonner on the court, start describing him as “special.” Like, short-bus special. And he looks it when he’s out there.

    But despite looking special out there, he also looked pretty good tonight. But how will that translate against a better team, or on a poor shooting night?

    And can someone please tell Bonner to stop trying to dribble-drive into the lane? It just looks so slow and horrible and awkward. But he did have one play where he stepped in and took a 20-footer. That’s more where I’d like to see him.

  • Blofeld

    Bonner as a viable rotation player!? I think I just threw up in my mouth a little. The FACT is, relying on bums like Bonner and Bogans is one of many reasons Spurs will wave goodbye after the first round again this year.

  • Mr. Anonymous


    I thought we were going to get bounced because TP is injured, Duncan’s defence has depreciated, Manu’s shooting is streaky, RJ is a flop and our overall defence was abysmal?

    But that’s just me.

  • Bryan Z

    I Personaly am getting excited about the team now. RJ seems to be finding his way more and more. He doesnt need to get to 19 a game but a solid 14-15 would be great. also he seems to be finding his teammates more. Hopefully if they can have a late season run get to a 4 seed.. i like there chances, George hill is getting so much better!

  • Bryan Z

    If parker gets back healthy i think MANU, TP, TD, RJ and HILL can carry at least one series win.

  • muwu

    I wonder what ballhog has to say about Bonner and Bogans now. Looks like Pop’s secret sons have come through

  • duaneofly

    I still don’t understand all the love for Bonner, the “king of +/-“.
    I’ve seen all the lineup stats posted on this site and how Bonner is in some of our best, but is it because of Bonner, or because of Timmy, Tony, and Manu?
    Is Bonner really that good, or is it because when Timmy is down low and gets a double, he can kick it out to Bonner for an open look? Same thing when Tony or Manu drive to the basket and can pass it out.
    Bonner does his job, which is hit open threes. I like having Bonner on the team and I do see his value now, but to act like he’s some great/really good player is ridiculous.
    You could replace Bonner with anyone else who is tall and can hit a three. However, you can’t replace the Big Three.

  • Joe

    Given all of our injuries and on-court struggles against quality teams, I can’t realistically expect that we’ll make a deep run this year.

    That said, here’s a hopelessly optimistic silver lining on an otherwise grey cloud. Hollinger’s playoff odds project us as the 8th seed right now, facing off against the Lakers in the first round. If we have any hope at all of making a deep run this year, isn’t it better that we get our toughest opponent in the first round than trying to play with them late in the playoffs? One of our biggest problems has been health and stamina in back-to-backs. Getting them early on means that we’ll be as healthy and as well-rested as we’re going to be in the post-season. If Manu continues his resurgence and we can continue to hold Tony under 30 min/game the rest of the way, isn’t there a faint possibility that getting the Lakers in the first round might be a blessing in disguise? We’d still be a long-shot to take them, but if we managed to pull together a great series and pick them off, wouldn’t that be just the boost in team moral that might carry us to the finals?

  • Bryan Z

    @ JOe

    Playoffs you dont play back to back.

    and yes i agree if MAnu keeps improving, George Hill is definetly improving i think Duncan and parker are still amazing every 2 or 3 days with rest. Hill Jefferson Duncan and Parker along with HIll and blair playing great i like 1 or 2 series wins.if things go well maybe a finals apperance but a 1 and done definetly wont happen this year

  • Joe

    @ Bryan Z

    Thanks for the support. I didn’t mean to imply that you get back-to-backs in the playoffs — I was trying to use that as a reference for how we play now in the regular season when we’re particularly tired.

    I think how we play in our 2 remaining games against the Lakers in the regular season will speak volumes about our hopes for the playoffs. If we can’t get past them in the first round, it wasn’t meant for us to be this year, anyway.

  • muwu


    people’s aren’t saying bonner is gonna replace the big 3 (if we can still call them that) any time soon. The lineup statistics don’t say who your best players are, they show who plays the best together. And those combinations are not necessarily your best players.

  • junierizzle

    @Duaneofly and Blofeld

    Stop hating. THey won they game, geez.

    My bro and I have been saying the same thing. IF they can get to the 4th seed then great. BUt it looks like they are going to be fighting for the 7th seed with Portland. Maybe they can get to 5th or 6th. ANyway, we’ve been saying they should just secure the 8th spot and go head to head with the LAKERS. Let’s just get it over with. That’s the match up we thought we were gonna see anyway.
    Just in the 1st round an not the WCF. ANything can happen.
    And if they should get taken out in the first round, I’d rather see them lose to the LAkers then the MAvs.


    First, Good afternoon to all the fellas…

    Yeah, Bonner hit some shots and even Bogans got some shots to fall…

    I will even give Bonner credit for staying in front of West a bit last night.

    Unlike the opinion of several posters, I think these guys are reading these posts. Bonner played like he was tired of me being on his azz….Glad to help…

    However, when “The Rocket” decided to put it on the floor and drive to the hoop in the 3rd, that was some funny &%$. I LMAO all night long. Go Matt.

    As for Bogans, you guys know my stance…Horrible. Every time Pop trotts Bogans out, I have involuntary twtitching. Its horrifying!

    Coah HOF is still up to his old tricks with his line ups and rotations. It was frustrating to watch, but do-able against the Hornets. They looked like crap in both games.

    Now, the jokes are over. Looks like a stretch of games against teams that can ball.

    Frustrating that Coach HOF didnt take these two games vs Hornets and use them to incorporate Mhinmi and Hairston into the mix. Seems like a wasted opportunity.

    Finally, I could not leave this out…I ask that all of you guys take a look at the post game interview conducted with caoch HOF after the Hornets game….

    It blew my hair back!

    Check out our sports media in action. Pathetic!

    See link below:

  • Robert

    Not a surprise that when Matt Bonner’s main skill is working, he’s more effective. He’s a shooter and when the shots are falling he needs PT.

    Same thing about Roger Mason Jr.

    I hope this isn’t another fluke game from Keith Bogans. Dude is still stealing minutes from where I stand.

  • AP

    No comments on the worthless night from Richard Jefferson? Or are we tired of commenting on that? We’ve got commenters who continually rail against Pop, but Jefferson gets a freebie because he can dunk?
    3 points, in 20+ min from your second-highest paid player is abysmal. Jefferson has no pride, and he is not a baller. If he were, he would have hustled or willed himself to anything better than a paltry, meager 3 points.

  • ThatBigGuy

    I would have to say that Bonner benefits from the system just as much as the system benefits from Bonner being in it.

    We are at our best with a stretch 4/5 who can give Timmy his space down low. Bonner fills that position perfectly. That’s why I have always contended that Bonner is worth much more to us than other teams, hence his (in my opinion) low trade value.

    Basically, on a bad day he can’t hurt us, but on a good day, he can help us greatly.

  • lvmainman

    Wow, the media was lame. No questions of DNP’s for Mason. No why Hairston can’t get 10-12 minutes. No thoughts on Finley as a Celtic. No will McDyess or Duncan play at Memphis. Just quiet. The media is not very inquisitive.

  • Jesse Blanchard

    The interview that you saw was essentially just the television people, who aren’t necessarily basketball minds, trying to find a clip or two for the news.

    Some of the questions you brought up were posed before the game with the newspaper and print guys. Read Mike Monroe’s stuff at the Express-News.

  • SpurredOn

    Two things I appreciate you mentioning: “Sometimes defense cannot be judged by the shots an opponent makes” – very true. Whether it be Bowen is years past or Hill and Bogans this season, we’ve seen guys play great defense and the opponent makes the bucket. That’s what top players are supposed to do. It seems like Pop likes Bonner playing big minutes against NO, even last season, as he wants to draw them into going to West and draw West away from the hoop on defense.

    Second, your comment about the 3pt shooting. A slight uptick would likely have led to an additional 4-5 wins thus far. The unforced turnovers from early in the season certainly cost this team 5-6 wins. Improving the former and having eliminated the latter shows that this team still has a higher ceiling.

  • SpurredOn

    @Joe – I actually think it is a benefit to play the Lakers later in the playoffs. Kobe has logged many minutes this season and in his career. For all the talk of the miles on Duncan’s legs, facing Kobe after he plays six games in the first round and possibly seven in the second will be the best time to play LA. Same for Dallas; I’d rather play them in the second round where they will be beaten regardless of their seeding.

  • muwu

    I think it’s stupid how some people want all these things from the media. Uh, most of these people’s jobs are to get info and quotes with things relating to the game or the spurs in general, not like a ton of these are in depth spurs concentrated media that are that focused on them. It’s only natural that they would ask general questions unless they’re assigned 100% to the spurs alone.


    OK…Rich Jefferson.

    No, he doesnt completelty get a bye either. His play has been ugly. Seems he is doubting himself every time out…

    Strange, considering that he was always a baller. Dont understand why he has been so ineffective, other than the fact that he looks a lil too heavy in his upper body.
    Dont really think thats it though. Seems that his struggles are more mental than anything else. Just needs to get his head right.

    Actually dont worry too much about a guy like Rich. Hoping he will find his groove as the competition improves over the next few weeks. Great players tend to show up when facing great comtetition.

    I look forward to the upcomming games.
    They will present a much clearer picture.

  • Greyberger

    One quick note on Matt Bonner while we’re on the subject:

    I hear people complaining about Matt’s contract. That’s pretty ridiculous – re-signing him and the terms of the deal were a huge steal for the Spurs. He’s our best 3pt shooter and his size allows him to get good looks throughout the game.

    Despite this season’s injuries, and limited playing time, Matt is fifth in the NBA among frontcourt players in 3pt % and tied for second in makes per minute. His efficiency and volume puts him in the company of guys like Rashard Lewis, Danilo Gallinari, Peja Stojakovic – guys who get big minutes, big money, regular rotations, and plays run for them.

    What makes Matt different and better than our other 3pt shooters this year or last is this combination of efficiency and volume. When you put in Mason (or last year’s Bowen or Udoka) you don’t get the same effect because they get chased off their shot easier. Bonner just shoots over smaller guys or outruns bigger guys and can reliably get good looks just by setting a screen or running through traffic to the other corner.

    This year Matt attempts 7.9 3pt shots per 40 minutes, 4th in the NBA. Mason takes 7, Manu 6 and Bogans 4.3, but they’re not shooting much better than league average. Hill is but attempts just 3.5 per 40 min. RJ is a sad sad story – he attempts the fewest of all our 3pt shooters but also shoots the most poorly.

    3pt shooting in basketball is like hitting in baseball: adding good players make the others in the lineup perform better. When Bonner is on the court he becomes the #1 threat from range. It’s not just about spacing for Tim and the dribble penetration. Manu and Hill perform better as the 2nd or 3rd ranged threat with less defensive attention on them when they’re hanging back or making cuts back and forth to the 3pt line.

    He’s one of the best at the thing he does, which is obviously of value to every team in the league. If he could play defense and rebound better he would be getting 12 million a year somewhere, not the 3.25 we can afford.

    If you want to complain about somebody’s contract or signing decisions the Spurs and Matt Bonner are not a good target. You actually don’t know how good we got it when we got him for rasho at half the cost.

  • junierizzle

    I’ll give RJ a pass this time. He only took 5 shots. So, they didn’t really need him. Bonner and Bogans picked up the scoring las night.

    I think they should win tonight. Last night the Spurs didn’t exactly put it all on the floor. It’s like they new they should save some for tonight.

    Monday @ CAVS should be good too. Cavs are playing small right now. Spurs have been playing small all year. It should be competitive. Cavs haven’t seen a second unit like the SPurs all year.

  • Colin

    Richard Jefferson has gotten a perpetual “pass” on the whole season. THE BOTTOM LINE IS THAT IF JEFFERSON WERE SCORING BETWEEN 16-20PPG (that’s why he’s here), there wouldn’t be all the argument about how Bonner can’t play and how anyone who posts on this site can outplay Bogans. There is obviously a disconnect between his mentality and how it translates to his play on the court. He just hasn’t gotten it. Nor would I expect to see his play to improve against better competition. He is very inconsistent for this team and it has showed in the record. Period. On the nights where RJ is a no show, the Spurs are too reliant on certain role players to produce past their capability. What if Bonner and Bogans produced zero last night? I bet we would have heard all about them being useless and nada about RJ.

    The Spurs don’t know what they will get from him night in and night out.

    With that said, I have always liked his game until this season. I hope he proves me wrong in the remaining 20 or so games. The Spurs have a stretch coming up that will test their mental and physical fortitude. I’ll (and the rest of us fans) will be pulling for them.

  • Jim Henderson

    Some brief comments about the game itself:

    (1) While I’m happy for our third straight win, the Hornets sucked in this game – only 3 players did a damn thing, & their young scoring machine (Thorton) missed the fourth quarter – Stojakovic was just one of ten – and no, it wasn’t our scintillating “D” that caused it – just an off game (Hornets shot 49% FG).
    (2) The match-ups favor us against under-sized teams like the Hornets – but if we play like that (lack-luster defensively & on the boards – e.g., our transition “D” continues to be terribly inconsistent) against bigger, more talented teams we’ll be in trouble (like tonight!).
    (3) Our 3-point efficiency bailed our ass out. Better not count on that every night, because it ain’t gonna happen.

    On the players:

    (1) Look, I’m glad Bogans finally had a sound outing, and not just shooting-wise – but the fact is, he plays like this about once every two weeks – that’s not gonna cut it – plus, he had more favorable match-ups last night than usual (I would be very surprised if he has a good game tonight, for example), Stojakovic simply had an off-night, and Thorton was hot anyway. I still maintain we need an upgrade at this position, and I would give Hairston more of a shot before it’s too late to get him solidly into the rotation.
    (2) I’ve always said Bonner, when healthy, is a decent role player within our system – and he’s shown that recently. He matches up well against the Hornets. He might have more problems against a team like the Grizzlies. Let’s hope McDyess is ready to play some minutes tonight.
    (3) Jefferson simply sucked again, after coming off a series of games that gets ones hopes up, including his best all-around game of the year against the Suns on Sunday. This is VERY troublesome.

  • Jim Henderson

    “Seems that his struggles are more mental than anything else. Just needs to get his head right.”

    You’ve got that right. There’s no other explanation. I don’t buy that he’s a “bad fit”.

    “Actually dont worry too much about a guy like Rich.”

    On this we disagree. Not long ago, I thought he would still improve considerably by the last month or two of the season. Unfortunately, he’s now run out of time. As a result, he’s a big worry for me now. I don’t think we have a prayer now to see pretty consistent “Sun’s-like” games from him this season. And that could be a death-knell for our playoff chances.

  • Colin

    Hey Jim,

    If he’s not a “bad fit,” how else do you explain his drop off in scoring? The “head trip” argument is a cop out which says more about his work ethic and will to succeed which only tells me that he isn’t the type of player to succeed in this system. If he’s not scoring, then he should be rebounding or getting steals/deflections and using his dribble drive to get to the line (then make free throws, which are down this year). He gets enough minutes to get shots. I don’t buy the “coach is in his head” argument either. He’s played for enough coaches to understand how special his skill set is. Players like him know how to get shots.

    I agree that he appears to be over-thinking his shot selection at times and he isn’t attacking the rim (which is his signature characteristic) like he has in the past. He has scored everywhere else but San Antonio, how else can you explain it? He is a career 17ppg scorer who gets the Spurs 12 ppg and 3 reb and 2 asst/game. Those #’s are OK, but severely lacking for what the Spurs need to get out of him.

  • Jim Henderson

    March 6th, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    “If he’s not a “bad fit,” how else do you explain his drop off in scoring? The “head trip” argument is a cop out which says more about his work ethic and will to succeed which only tells me that he isn’t the type of player to succeed in this system.”

    I don’t disagree with much of your whole first paragraph. I certainly don’t buy into the, “it’s Pops fault” line of BS. In my view, RJ is just not playing focused this year (could be caused by a variety of issues, including perhaps, personal/relationship matters off the court). It’s nobody’s fault but his own. And the “mental issues” I’ve alluded to ARE IN FACT ADVERSELY EFFECTING “his work ethic and will to succeed”. Indeed, if a player has a problem with “working hard”, and playing with “determination” night in and night out, he’s not going to be as effective “regardless of the system he’s playing in.” There’s nothing so esoteric or rigid about the Spurs system that automatically precludes someone with RJ’s skill-set to adapt effectively.

    You say:

    “He has scored everywhere else but San Antonio, how else can you explain it? He is a career 17ppg scorer who gets the Spurs 12 ppg and 3 reb and 2 asst/game. Those #’s are OK, but severely lacking for what the Spurs need to get out of him.”

    Generally, I agree with this, as long as you realize he doesn’t need to be the same scorer with the Spurs that he was on other teams. Where I have the most problem with him this year is his lack of consistent focus & effort in all facets of the game, particularly on defense & in rebounding. I’d like to see him more in the 15 ppg, 5rpg, 3apg area, attack the rim more consistently, and just bring a whole lot more concentration & consistent effort on the defensive end. He has the capabilities to provide this “in the Spurs system”.

  • Colin


    Again, I like your points. I would argue that the Spurs DO need him to be that kind of scorer and I would settle for him scoring 15ppg. Scoring 15ppg like you mentioned is only making one more 3/game, something he is totally capable of doing.

    If he were scoring at the 15ppg clip you mentioned, I would bet the Spurs would have about 3-4 more wins than they do. If he averaged 17-18ppg they would probably have about 5-6 more wins as well as making things a lot easier for the role players such as Bonner, Bogans et al.

    You’re right, if he were rebounding like his athletic potential allows him to, he could effect games at the rim on the defensive end without having to score 20ppg. However, he seems to disappear at this end of the court and is too often a spectator waiting for the ball to get tapped before he makes his initial jump.

  • Jim Henderson


    “You’re right, if he were rebounding like his athletic potential allows him to, he could effect games at the rim on the defensive end without having to score 20ppg. However, he seems to disappear at this end of the court and is too often a spectator waiting for the ball to get tapped before he makes his initial jump.”

    Yes, and this is his main problem on the Spurs – he “disappears” too much; his play is too often NOT making an “impact”, whether he’s shooting/scoring well or not. His play in the past often had some “impact” on the game, even if he wasn’t shooting it well. And Manu is a perfect example of how this works. Even if he’s shooting poorly he often has a positive “impact” on the game. RJ needs to rediscover his own “Manu”, or Mojo, or whatever you want to call it. RJ is more than just a scorer when he plays with passion & physicality, because he exerts a positive “impact” on the game with aggressive, athletic play.

    We need to pray that he gets this back on a consistent basis. And it’s all on him; it’s not the coach, it’s not the system, and it really doesn’t matter if he starts or comes off the bench (in fact Pop may have done this primarily to shake-up RJ’s negative psychology, get it out of a rut, and it’s working so far, to some extent).

  • ITGuy

    Go Spurs Go!!