"They played great,” said San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker of his team’s fourth-quarter bench performance on Wednesday, “(and) we needed it."
After going into the fourth quarter tied with Milwaukee Bucks at 76 on Thursday, the Spurs’ bench comprised of Nando De Colo, Gary Neal (20 points), James Anderson, Matt Bonner (12 rebounds), and Tiago Splitter (15 points) lead the Spurs on a 16-2 run that busted the game open for the home team on their way to a 110-99 victory.
With the Spurs down four players due to injuries, Parker (22 points, 10 assists), Tim Duncan (17 points, 10 rebounds), and Manu Ginobili (11 points, 6 assists) still played their roles as leaders, but without the bench, the Spurs would probably have fallen.
Here’s the rundown of the Spurs’ victory that began slowly, but ended with a burst of energy in the final quarter.
First quarter: Spurs 29, Bucks 32
The Bucks shot 62% in the first, while the Spurs only made 9-of-27 shots in the quarter. Parker was one of the only bright spots with 10 points, while Ersan Ilysaova (17 points) scored 11 points for the Bucks. The Spurs shot 1-of-7 from three in the first quarter.
Second quarter: Spurs 52, Bucks 58
Despite the Spurs shooting just 9% (1-of-11) from beyond the arc by halftime, the team was still only down six points at the half. The shooting woes continued in the second quarter as the Spurs went into the half shooting 40%, while the Bucks were shooting 55% from the field. The key for the Spurs in staying with the Bucks was their careful possession of the ball as the team committed just five turnovers. By half, Duncan lead the Spurs with 15 points, Parker had scored 12 points, and Ilyasova had scored 17 points.
"In the first half,” said Parker after the game, “we had wide open shots, they just weren't going in."
Third quarter: Spurs 76, Bucks 76
The quarter began slowly for the Spurs as they began to turn the ball over, but then toward the end they began to heat up as De Colo was inserted into the game and Bonner made one of the Spurs’ 4-of-8 three pointers in the third quarter. The Spurs outscored the Bucks 24-18 in the quarter, while holding Ilyasova scoreless.
"The stats were not fair to Nando today,” said Ginobili of De Colo’s seven points and two assists, “but he was key in the victory."
Fourth quarter: Spurs 101, Bucks 99
"It was our best group on the court all night." That was Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich after the lineup of De Colo, Neal, Anderson, Bonner, and Splitter started the fourth quarter with a 16-2 run that eventually built the Spurs a 15-point lead. In the fourth, the Spurs outscored the Bucks 34-23, but Neal’s shooting, De Colo’s passing, Bonner’s rebounding, Splitter’s scoring, and Anderson’s activity were key in the Spurs transforming a close game for three quarters into a blowout that had the team up 17 at one point.
Coach Pop had this to say after the game of the group that built the lead, "Those are the guys that were available, so they had to play, and they played well."
"Players enjoy playing with him,” said coach Pop of Splitter after the game, “Tony threw it to him, Nando threw it to him, (and) Manu threw it to him."
With the win, the Spurs move to 15-4 on the season and will have Thursday off before resuming play at the AT&T Center in their first game against the James Harden-led Houston Rockets.
· Talk about lighting up the scoreboard. The Spurs outscored the Bucks 58-41 in the second half.
· What a difference the three ball can make? After shooting 1-11 from three in the first half and being down six points, the Spurs connected on 5-of-10 three pointers in the second half and they ended up winning by 11 points.
· Dominance on the boards – The Spurs were dominant in the rebounding department led by Bonner as the team outrebounded the Bucks 53-36, and more importantly secured extra possessions with a 14-8 rebounding advantage.
· Controlling the paint – Though their three pointers were falling through the whole game, the Spurs continued to attack the paint throughout the night as they outscored the Bucks 52-32.
· After scoring 17 points in the first half, the Spurs held Ilyasova to zero points in the second half.
· Late in the fourth quarter, with the victory already in hand, I spotted Stephen Jackson behind the Spurs’ bench making Danny Green and Duncan laugh. Whatever Jackson was saying or doing must have been funny because even for a small moment, Kawhi Leonard was smiling.
· Kawhi Leonard has the same serious-frozen expression even when he’s in a suit and not playing in the game.
· Don’t read too much into this, but DeJuan Blair was the first player to get off the bench and was ready to head to the locker room. Blair played just around 13 minutes in the game and though he started the game, he didn’t play in the second half. From looking at his expression, Blair didn’t seem too happy after the game, but that’s just an inference.