San Antonio Spurs 110, Milwaukee Bucks 99: The pick-and-roll love triangle of Manu Ginobili, Nando De Colo and Tiago Splitter

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AT&T CENTER — In a game that was as close as this one, tied at 76 heading into the fourth quarter, it was quite surprising how swiftly the Spurs bench put away the Milwaukee Bucks in that final period. The San Antonio reserves went on an 18-3 run to start the fourth en route to a 110-99 victory for the Spurs.

Gary Neal (who tied with Tony Parker as the game’s high scorers with 22 points each), Nando De Colo, James Anderson, Matt Bonner and Tiago Splitter featured in the lineup that led the charge for San Antonio. That five-man unit was brutally effective against the Bucks. In seven minutes of action on Wednesday night, that group posted a offensive efficiency of 137.1 and a defensive efficiency of 32.9 for a net efficiency of 104.2 points over 100 possessions. In short, that was bananas.

The Spurs did it the same way that they boasted the league’s best offense last season. They spread the floor with Bonner and ran the high pick-and-roll effectively with Splitter. De Colo, like Manu Ginobili, makes for a fantastic dance partner in the pick-and-roll with Splitter. The Splitter-De Colo pairing connected a couple of times in the fourth quarter and made huge plays everywhere to give the Spurs a insurmountable lead.

“Against a team that has good five-on-five defense, you get them off balance with Tiago rolling, Nando finding people and Gary finishing was fun to watch,” Manu Ginobili said after the game.

Nando finished with seven points and two assists in 17 minutes Wednesday evening, but there are those who witnessed the performance De Colo put on and believe his effect went beyond the box score.

“The stats are not fair with him tonight,” Manu said. “He was key.”

The Spurs bench was able to build and extend a lead in part because they pushed the pace, helping their spacing offensively, and played solid defense. The Bucks shot 8-22 (36%) in the fourth quarter and were outrebounded 14-5 by the Spurs. Matt Bonner, in particular, did well on the boards, finishing with 12 rebounds on the night. San Antonio’s ability to finish defensive possessions helped ignite their offense, opening up opportunities early in the shot clock.

“Matty Bonner was awesome on the boards,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich put it simply.

Tiago Splitter chipped in 15 points against the Bucks on Wednesday night, with 10 of those coming in the fourth quarter. It was the third time this season that the Splitter had double-figures in the fourth quarter (hat tip to Dan McCarney of Spurs Nation), tied for the most on the team with Gary Neal.

Splitter is one of those players that has a great feel for spacing, especially on the pick-and-roll, and creates plenty of passing lanes for his teammates. For all of his deficiencies, and there are plenty, there are some things he does very well enabling him to have big nights like Wednesday.

“He’s a great pick-and-roll player. He rolls to the basket. He knows how to space things,” Coach Pop said. “Players enjoy playing with him the way he rolls and catches it.”

Indeed Coach Pop, indeed.

Here are some more notes from the Spurs’ win over the Bucks:

  • Cory Joseph put in some good minutes for the Spurs. CoJo only had two points, two rebounds and two assists, but put in an active first half shift as Tony Parker’s backup. “He does things that win games,” Coach Pop said about CoJo. That’s pretty high praise if you ask me.
  • Because of the big fourth quarter from the Spurs bench, Tim Duncan was able to rest the entire final period. It was totally legal. Duncan still finished the game with 17 points and 10 rebounds, so there’s that.
  •  The Spurs struggled with the Bucks’ length early in the game, primarily that of Larry Sanders and Ekpe Udoh. San Antonio was able to get both in foul trouble early and from there the Spurs were able to start scoring… sort of. The Spurs 1-11 from the 3-point line in the first half.
  • Tony Parker with 22 points on 11 shots and 10 assists. Well done, sir.
  • Watching basketball is fun when Nando De Colo is playing well. This much is true.
  • The Spurs outrebounded Milwaukee 53-36 on the night. Ouch.

Advanced lineup data courtesy of NBA.com/Stats

  • junierizzle

    I wrote this on the El Conclusion article but It sure is fun to watch De Colo. He is like a “Mini-Manu”

    I really like the second unit with De Colo, Bonner, Anderson, Splitter, Neal. Pop should put them in quicker and not wait until the SPurs are down by 8 points. They bring a ton of energy and they lift the entire team.

    I have to give props to Bonner. He is playing hard whenever he is out there. He has hit some big shots this season and has played great defense.

  • ThatBigGuy

    This squad is so incredibly deep that Pop has the option to replace a player who is struggling, only to have a third legitimately viable option if the replacement struggles.

    Splitter has an incredibly ability to catch a mid-shin no-look pass off the PnR, jump off the wrong foot, and scoop a very controlled reverse lay-up in traffic with amazing efficiency and grace. So why does he have such difficulty with a simple jump hook?

    Minus the Big Three, this team is a playoff team in the East, and a bubble team in the West. That’s pretty darn good.

  • assistman

    I don’t believe the deer will keep Udoh (nor Dalembert, ftm), Sanders and Henson have more value, and they also have Mbah a Moute.
    Anybody here wonder if Spurs would be interested in Udoh?

  • STIJL

    The depth of talent, character and ability to positively adjust giving injury to three of the main contributors leaves one wondering if they should even consider a trade. This team signifies the model of… “team”. Bravo team Spurs.

  • merkin

    Matt Bonner, the red rodman.

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  • Titletown99030507d

    De Colo and Splitter are turning into something special. I sure would like to see them two together again next season but my guess is Tiago is gone for bigger and better things namely a pay raise.

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