San Antonio Spurs 109, New Orleans Hornets 84

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AT&T CENTER–Big deficit comebacks–and the need to avoid them–being a popular pregame topic of conversation, the San Antonio Spurs rang up a season-high 68 points in the first half on their way to a 109-84 victory over the New Orleans Hornets.

“You can only reach into that bag so many times, and we’ve done it five times already,” said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. “Eventually it will catch up to us.”

Having fallen behind quickly into double digit holes in the first two games against the Hornets, with one comeback successful and the first one falling just short, the San Antonio Spurs did what worked so successfully in their previous two games against the Hornets–spread a previously elite New Orleans defense out with four shooters, then bombard them with three-pointers, dribble penetration, and extra passes.

In a blowout like tonight, there are so many things to point out that the Spurs did right (or Hornets did wrong), but the most notable was dealing with pick and rolls (and, in fact, any play)  involving Matt Bonner.

Keying a second quarter run of nearly flawless execution, Bonner scored 12 of his 14 points and two assists as the Spurs blew open what was already a fairly comfortable lead.

By my unofficial count, the Spurs ran nine plays in the second quarter involving Matt Bonner, scoring eight times, of which seven possessions ended with three-pointers. A quick rundown of some of his second quarter work:

  • After running a pick and roll with Bonner, Manu Ginobili finds himself in a defensive switch against one of the Hornets’ big men, clearing ample room for a step back three-pointer (37-25).
  • Bonner nails an open three-pointer off dribble penetration and a pass from Gary Neal (40-25).
  • Bonner and Neal play a little two-man game, with Bonner finding Neal open behind the line (43-27).
  • Hill fouled at rim after pick and roll frees him, hits both free throws (45-27).
  • Bonner hits a pick and pop three from Manu Ginobili.
  • Another pick and pop, same combination of players (53-29).
  • Matt Bonner on a drive and kick, finds Neal again for a three-pointer (58-34).
  • Tony Parker takes one step into the paint, and finds Bonner for an open three when his defender sags too much. (64-34).
  • Bonner misses an open three, ruining an otherwise perfect quarter.

“They were hard-hedging, so if I can get off the pick quick enough–sometimes not even set it, but slip to a spot–they’re behind,” Bonner said. “Then I can catch the ball for a shot, drive, or find someone else open.”

  • DorieStreet

    I think our mistake was to only have 13 players on the roster. That one more spot could have been our athletic rebounding young big we need against the top playoff teams. Or, if that player was not fitting in to our system, that extra body would be helpful in trade options. No way we let Hill go–he’s our spark off the bench, growing into a defensive stopper- and will be one of our signature players after the ‘Core 3′ are gone. One good test for our front line coming soon is Friday vs. Atlanta–similar to the Spurs in height, but younger and athletic.

  • Daniel T

    Tyler:

    You contend that Tiago isn’t player due to wear and tear, that Tiago has been playing non-stop in the past 14 months. Do you have any idea of how many games he’s actually had to play in those 14 months?

    From what I can tell, the Spanish League plays one game a week for about 34 weeks. I guess besides Spanish League games there are Euro-league games. His Euro-league stats from last year show he played a total of 16 games, in which he averaged 27 minutes per game. The Fiba Championships were another 6 games, with an average of 25 minutes. Of course there are also various practice games, but it would seem it doesn’t add up to much more than a regular NBA season. The Spurs players that did international play during the Summer were doing that on top of the NBA season (and playoffs). It doesn’t seem that Tiago should have all that much wear and tear due to play.

    He did have an injury that required him to miss getting any action during training camp and the preseason. I’d think that has been his main setback. It’s much harder to work someone in to the rotation once they’ve missed that practice time, since you don’t want them working out kinks once the games count.

  • Gebo

    I think there is no team out there who is going to trade a quality big for George Hill. There are lots of good 6’2” guards in and about the league. There are very few good 7′. We could also sweeten the pot with a first round pick (looks like about 25th this year) and our trade partner could try to draft a quality big to replace the one they gave up. There are no quality bigs at the 25th pick or we would have a several of them already. I’d like to see us give Tiago a real chance. We don’t match up with the Laker’s bigs, no team does. I keep hearing Boston, and I don’t see the two O’Neals and Perkins matching up with the Laker’s front line. Play hard, smart and unselfishly and let the chips fall where they may.

  • Tyler

    @ Daniel T

    It’s not necessarily the number of games, but the fact he hasn’t had any rest. Even though you might only play one game a week, you still have practice, weights, individual work, travel, etc. throughout the rest of the week. That makes it difficult to heal, especially considering how physical and rough it can get overseas. And it’s the offseason when your body heals. Without it, it’s difficult to get back to 100%.

    The fact that Tiago suffered an injury during the preaseason, at least to me, strongly indicates that his body was putting on the brakes.

    And if he’s injured after only 60+ games over 10 months, imagine where he’ll be after 40 games in less than 3 months? Add to it that you probably want to be a little more careful with injuries to big men, that’s even more reason to bring him along slowly.

  • Gebo

    I think there is no team out there who is going to trade a quality big for George Hill. There are lots of good 6’2” guards in and about the league. There are very few good 7′. We could also sweeten the pot with a first round pick (looks like about 25th this year) and our trade partner could try to draft a quality big to replace the one they gave up. There are no quality bigs at the 25th pick or we would have a several of them already. I’d like to see us give Tiago a real chance. We don’t match up with the Laker’s bigs, no team does. I keep hearing Boston, but I don’t see the two O’Neals and Perkins matching up with the Laker’s front line. Play hard, smart and unselfishly and let the chips fall where they may.