Redemption shot boosts Bonner’s confidence

By Mike Monroe

Having made only 12 of 50 3-point shots in his previous 14 games, Spurs forward Matt Bonner missed his first long-distance attempt of Sunday’s game against the Suns at the ATT Center. It was a corner 3-point shot early in the second quarter, running his streak of consecutive 3-point misses to seven.

In need of a jolt of confidence, he got it when teammate Gary Neal passed up an open 3-pointer to get the ball to Bonner, uncovered at one of his favorite spots.

As he watched his shot settle into the net, Bonner said he felt like an innocent man who had escaped from prison after a sentence he hadn’t deserved.

“It was totally a ‘Shawshank Redemption’ shot,” he said. “I felt like I was riding down the coast of Mexico, looking at the Pacific Ocean.”

He was grateful to Neal, a 41.6 percent 3-point shooter who rarely turns down an open long-distance look.

“It’s our theme we’ve been preaching all year: Good to great,” Bonner said. “He had a good look but kicked it to me for a great look. If I’m in the same position, I’ll return the favor, and that goes for everybody on the team. We did a great job making the extra pass tonight, going from good looks to great looks.”

Neal admitted he rarely passes up an open-3-point shot.

“That wasn’t the first,” he said. “But there haven’t been many. I can’t make a living passing up open threes. But as long as I’m passing it to Matty, I’m good with it.”

Bonner made two more 3-pointers against the Suns, raising his league-leading percentage to 46.5.

He scored 16 points, his most productive offensive game since he made 6 of 7 threes and scored 18 points in the Spurs’ 125-95 victory over Miami on March 4.

It was his work on the offensive glass that most impressed Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, however. He had six offensive rebounds, two of them turned into put-back baskets. His 11 rebounds gave him his first double-double of the season.

“(That) was more impressive than him making a couple of threes,” Popovich said. “He was very, very active for us in that regard, and against Phoenix, it’s really important. But just in general, his pursuit of what we call 50-50 balls was real important, and he was great at it.”

HEAVY LIFTING: The Spurs followed Sunday’s game with a weightlifting session, opting for the strength and conditioning work after a noon start because the annual team photo is today. After that, they leave for Atlanta, where they play the Hawks on Tuesday.

GREEN DAY: The Spurs recalled swing man Danny Green from their Austin Toros NBA D-League team, but he was inactive for the game. Green played Saturday in the Toros’ season finale, scoring 19 points, with seven rebounds, before fouling out after 32 minutes. Appropriately enough, he was behind the bench on “Go Green Awareness Night,” part of the NBA’s environmental awareness week. Players for both teams wore “Go Green” warm-ups that had been made from re-cycled materials.

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