Game rewind: ‘Fantastic’ bench leads victory over Hawks

The Spurs’ bench again stepped  up in a big way when it was most needed Wednesday night.

After the starters struggled to hold a lead early into the second half, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich didn’t hesitate to pull them.

“Our bench was fantastic,” Popovich said. “A number of people came into the game and played good solid basketball both at the defensive and offensive ends. I was really pleased with the bench.”

That effort helped boost the Spurs to a convincing 105-83 victory over Atlanta, which came into the game as one of the league’s hottest teams.

Here’s how the Spurs claimed their ninth home victory in 10 games. 

Game analysis: A balanced attack featuring five players in double figures and eight with at least eight points swarmed the Hawks and cruised to an easy victory.

Where the game was won: After Atlanta had pulled within 70-61 on Joe Johnson’s 20-footer with 2:03 left in the third quarter, the Spurs erupted on a 20-6 surge to put the game away. DeJuan Blair scored the last five points of the third quarter and capped the run with hoop to give the Spurs a commanding 90-67 advantage with 7:02 left in the game.

Bring on the bench: The Spurs’ bench was instrumental in charging past Atlanta, outscoring the Hawks 27-11 in the first half and 51-27 in the game.

Player of the game I: Matt Bonner had a couple of defensive busts that caused Popovich to go apoplextic, but it was hard to argue with his shooting. He hit 5 of 7 3-pointers en route to a 17-point effort that matched his season high.

Player of the game II: It was another strong game for Tiago Splitter who produced 16 points on 5 for 6 shooting, grabbed eight rebounds and dealt out two assists. Splitter has notched a career-best five consecutive double-figure games as his confidence in the Spurs’ rotation is soaring.

Player of the game III:  Maybe it was fatigue from all of the recent minutes, but Tony Parker had trouble sticking with Atlanta guard Jeff Teague. The second-year Wake Forest product went for a game-high 20 points as he sliced through the middle of the Spurs’ defense. Teague also added five rebounds — all in the first half — and produced a game-high three steals as he was a pest for the Spurs  for most of the game.

Most unsung: The Spurs needed some kind of lift at the point as Parker struggled early in the game. They got one from Cory Joseph, who had his strongest game with the team with eight points, four assists, a steal and a blocked shot in 18 minutes.

Did you notice: For the second straight game, the Spurs were burned by a missed call on an offensive goaltending. Blair’s basket with 7:37 left in the game was wiped out when officials thought he interfered  with the ball in the cylinder. Television replays indicated otherwise. And several plays later, lead official Zach Zarba apologized to Popovich along the sidelines for the blown call.  

Did you notice II: The two teams combined to shoot only 25 foul shots and were whistled for 33 fouls between them. That led to the game being played in 2 hours.

Did you notice III: Local product Ivan Johnson of Fox Tech High School and Cal State-San Bernardino had a big game for the Hawks. The rookie notched eight points, three rebounds and two assists in 21 minutes — most of any non-starter for the Hawks.

Stat of the game: The Spurs shot 51.2 percent for the game, becoming the first Atlanta opponent to top 50 percent this season.   

Stat of the game II: The Spurs’ perimeter game was solid with 11 3-pointers, including five from Bonner and two apiece from Richard Jefferson, Danny Green and Parker. It was the Spurs’ second most 3-pointers of the season, behind only the 16 they scored against Dallas on Jan. 5. The Spurs shot 47.8 percent from 3-point territory, marking the fifth straight game they have improved their 3-point percentage from the previous game.

Stat of the game III: The Spurs piled up a season-high 29 assists. But the most impressive part  of that that was that 10 of  the 12 players in San Antonio’s lineup accounted for at least one assist in the game.

Stat of the game IV: Thanks to strong performances from Blair and Splitter, the Spurs dominated the game inside with a 52-34 edge in points in the paint. It was tied for their second highest differential of the season.  

Weird stat of the game: The Spurs’ shooting improved in every quarter of the game. They shot 47.4 percent from the field in the first quarter, 50 percent in the second quarter, 52.4 percent in the third quarter and 55 percent in the fourth quarter.

Weird stat of the game II: The Spurs again were outrejected by their opponents with three blocked shots and eight of their shots blocked. During the last three games, the Spurs have blocked six shots and had 24 shots blocked.

Best plus/minus scores: Splitter was plus-27, Green was plus-19 and Joseph was plus-15.

Worst plus/minus scores: Tim Duncan was minus-4.

Quote of the game: “My instantaneous creativity is nonexistent,” Bonner, describing how he was hung up after attempting an awkward bank shot in the third quarter when he appeared to be looking for a teammate for a pass.

How the schedule stacks up: The Spurs have the day off  before starting a three-game road trip with games Friday at Minnesota, Sunday at Dallas and Monday in Memphis. Atlanta continues a five-game road trip with trips Friday to Detroit, Sunday to New Orleans and Tuesday to Toronto.

Injuries: Manu Ginobili missed his 14th game (Spurs record 9-5) after undergoing surgery for a fractured fifth left metacarpal.  T.J. Ford missed his nine game (Spurs record 6-3) with a torn left hamstring. Atlanta guard Kirk Hinrich (left shoulder injury) returned for his first game of the season. Al Horford (torn left pectoral muscle) missed Wednesday’s game.

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