San Antonio Spurs 91, Milwaukee Bucks 84: Matt Bonner’s All-Star Weekend petition
Manu Ginobili is a lock for the All-Star game, as the Milwaukee Bucks can attest to after the Spurs 91-84 victory in Milwaukee. And at an NBA-best 33-6, it would appear that San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is going along for the ride as well.
But beyond that, despite having the top record, there appears to be very few guarantees when it comes to a second player representing the NBAâ€™s best team. Tim Duncan is, for the first time in his career, not one of the two leading forwards being tapped by fan voting for a starting spot. Both he and Tony Parker face stiff competition for a reserve spot and are in no way a sure bet.
Enter Matt Bonner. The Spurs resident stretch four is often criticized for many of the things he doesnâ€™t do (mostly shot blocking and rebounding), but what he does doâ€”knock down open three-pointersâ€”he does better than almost everyone in the league. Itâ€™s time the NBA served notice with an invite to the All-Star weekendâ€™sÂ hallowed 3-pointÂ shootout.
If David Stern and the rest of the NBA need any evidence to validate his selection, they simply need to fire up the video of tonightâ€™s 17-point second half against the Bucks.
The NBA regular season is a long, grinding hell. Even for players at their athletic peak, sustaining maximum effort night in and night out is impossible. For teams playing the wrong end of a back-to-back on a cold night in Milwaukee, players capable of absorbing such regular season minutes are a valuable commodity.
In previous years, it would have been enough for Bonner to simply absorb those minutes provided the rest of the team was healthy enough to keep hisÂ role limited come playoff time (it hasnâ€™t been). This season Bonner might be proving to be a little bit more.
Held scoreless on just three shots in the first half, Bonner entered a tight contest in the third quarter and promptly worked his plus-minus magic. It was a Bonner three-pointer with 3:36 left in the third quarter that put the Spurs ahead in the second half, but it was a string of different plays that made a large difference in the ball game.
Granted, the three-pointer is still the heart of Bonnerâ€™s game (he went 3-5), but a scouting report that should still read chase him off that line at all costs now includes a variety of other tricks.
Of course there was the tried and true ball fake and step in for a midrange jumper, but Bonner has quietly developed an awkward but mildly effective dribble game. While not a pretty sight to behold, the variety of flip shots and runners Bonner has added make his slow motion version of the Tony Parker spin move somehow viable in this league.
The death of the standstill catch and shoot role player in San Antonio goes beyond new roster additions, the holdovers are slowly evolving too. Â Bonner is no longer stationary, and his newfound ability to become a secondary creator against broken defensesâ€”along with George Hill, Richard Jefferson, and Gary Nealâ€”go a long way towards keeping the Spurs offense rolling even as the other key cogs struggle.
Two years ago it might have seemed like a stretch, but Matt Bonner is a legitimate rotation player on a good team. Now, about that All-Star weekendâ€¦