San Antonio Spurs 114, Phoenix Suns 97: Slump buster
AT&T CENTER — Stating the obvious, a number of things went right during the San Antonio Spurs’ 114-97 win over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday afternoon. It started off as a fairly close contest between two old rivals, despite the Suns missing Steve Nash with “flu-like symptoms,” and then George Hill entered the game.
Offensively, Hill dominated the first half for the Spurs. The Spurs guard scored 24 points in the first half, hitting eight of nine shots, including shooting four of five from 3-point range.
“George had another one of those games where he’s aggressive,” Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich said after the game. “When he comes off the bench and gives what Manu used to give us coming off the bench, it really helps our group.”
Hill finished 10-16 from the field on the game and scored a game-high 29 points.
The Spurs also got a great performance off the bench for the first time in a while from Matt Bonner. Bonner hit three of four 3-pointers and finished with 16 points. More importantly, though, were the 11 rebounds that Bonner had in the game, six offensive.
“I thought his activity on the offensive board was more impressive than him making a couple 3′s,” Coach Pop said.
Bonner, who had been struggling with his shot for the last several games, finally got off the schnide at the 7:01 mark in the second quarter.
Gary Neal caught a pass on the wing with the opportunity for an open 3, and hesitated for a split second. Neal held the ball just long enough to draw the rotating defender to himself and passed the ball to Bonner who was even more open.
“It was my Shawshank Redemption shot,” Bonner said. “I was cruising down the coast on my way to Mexico.”
When it went through the hoop, my thought wasn’t the movies but instead, that of a guy on a cold streak with the ladies. Bonner was in a slump with those of the opposite sex and Neal was nice enough to pass along the phone number of a desperate girl.
Neither analogy may be that good, so instead we’ll let Coach Pop sort it out.
“It’s just trying to make a good shot a great shot, sometimes that’s an extra pass,” Pop said.
After his Shawshank Redemption quote, Bonner did echo the good-to-great theme Coach Pop mentioned, saying that it’s been one of the Spurs’ themes this season.
“Itâ€™s just what Coach Pop has been preaching all year, good to great,” Bonner said. “Thatâ€™s big, if you have a good shot but someone has a great shot, kick it and take the great shot.”
Continuing the bench theme, an interesting development occurred in the first quarter of this one. After Bonner entered the game off the bench for Antonio McDyess, Tiago Splitter became the second big off the bench, going in for Tim Duncan.
Normally Blair has been the other big to get the bulk of the minutes in the post rotation, but Sunday is indication that this could be changing. For the record, Splitter played fairly well in his minutes in the first half, scoring three points and grabbing three rebounds.
Splitter was a +15 on the afternoon and the Spurs broke the game open in that second quarter. In the second half, Blair saw action before Splitter did, but the game was seemingly out of reach at that point. It’s uncertain who would’ve seen more minutes had the game been closer.
It’s something to keep an eye on as the Spurs roll into the playoffs, the team’s big man rotation. Whenever he’s asked about Splitter, Coach Pop also seems to squeeze the word “tough” in there. As much as I like the things Blair does for the team, the guy described as “tough” is the one I want in there when the playoffs get going.