San Antonio Spurs 98, Atlanta Hawks 93: Matt Bonner time
Against the Warriors on the Friday night, the Spurs fed Golden State a consistent diet of postups featuring Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter. With Duncan getting Saturday night off, on the occasion of a second night of a back-to-back, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich had to alter the gameplan somewhat.
San Antonio relied heavily on the finishing and creation skills of Tony Parker en route to a 98-93 victory over the Atlanta Hawks. Parker finished with 23 points (on 10-of-22 shooting) and 12 assists, and only one turnover. Through the Spurs’ offensive system, Parker got into the lane and either finished plays himself (or at least tried to) or found shooters on the perimeter.
Matt Bonner was a big beneficiary of both Duncan’s night off and Parker’s generous nature. The Red Rocket played 23 minutes and notched 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting. He also had five rebounds and two steals.
In truth, this was Bonner’s night. Just days after the #LetBonnerShoot campaign to get the Red Rocket into the NBA’s 3-point shootout during All-Star Weekend began, Bonner played his third-highest minute total of the season and knocked down all three of his 3-point attempts. He even made some other plays one would classify as unexpected coming from Bonner, including a turnaround jumper from the low post.
If he can get some more opportunities over the next few days, the drive to get him in the 3-point contest could really gain some legs. Making the most of Duncan’s night off doesn’t hurt his cause for an increase in minutes, I’ll tell you that much.
Besides Bonner, Tiago Splitter was a winner on the night. Splitter contributed 14 points on 7-of-11 shooting and pulled down seven rebounds. The majority of Splitter’s points came as a finisher on pick-and-rolls with Parker. I think it’s pretty obvious that nights like Friday’s, where Splitter was effective on the low block, won’t become the norm anytime soon. Splitter is better suited as a finisher, which fits the Spurs fine at this point. Though it’s nice that he’s continued to sustain his production as circumstances have changed.
As a team, the Spurs held the Hawks to a 96.2 offensive rating, continuing the improved D we’ve seen from San Antonio. 43 games in and it’s no longer a fluke, the Spurs are a very good defensive team. They were able to do it against Atlanta without the man who could be the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year.
How good is the Spurs’ defense right now? Well, the silver and black rank higher right now in defensive efficiency (4th) than in offensive (5th). Ranking top-5 in both categories easily puts the Spurs in the midst of contending for a fifth title, despite how the game changes in the postseason. In the end, we know it’s all about matchups.
It was a night that could’ve easily gone wrong for the Spurs. Duncan was out, the team was sloppy at times and San Antonio was outrebounded by 11. Despite that, the Spurs found production in all the right places and swept the back-to-back. Many things are trending in the right direction for San Antonio and the team’s ability to have success in different styles and games is a reason why.
Some more notes following the Spurs’ win in Atlanta:
- He didn’t get mentioned in the previous section, but Kawhi Leonard quietly (Is there any other way?) submitted a strong performance for the Spurs. The Big Island scored 14 points (2-of-5 from 3-point range), and had five boards, two steals and a blocked shot. I would love if we could collectively find him a nickname that alludes to his ability to fill in the cracks.
- Just nine turnovers for the Spurs. After a terrible stretch of ball protection a few days ago, the Spurs have recovered to get the turnovers under control. They’ll flare up again, I’m sure, but they just can’t have any stretches like earlier in the month, where the Spurs turned the ball over 56 times in three games. That’ll end a seven-game series quickly. Turnovers and offensive rebounds, those are the two areas where the Spurs are susceptible.
- No Patty Mills against the Hawks. A bit of a surprise there.
- Kudos to DeJuan Blair for submitting a professional seven point, seven rebound performance. His limitations are still glaring and position on the team up in the air with the eventual(?) signing of Aron Baynes, but there’s no sense of Blair pouting during games or in the locker room.
Stats courtesy of NBA.com/Stats