Splitter plays big minutes again

By Mike Monroe

Spurs rookie Tiago Splitter had about an hour before Saturday’s game to prepare himself to replace Tim Duncan in the starting lineup against Charlotte. Coach Gregg Popovich had opted to rest his starting power forward for the first time all season.

When Duncan went down with a sprained left ankle in the first quarter of Monday’s game against the Warriors at the ATT Center, Splitter had no time to ponder.

The response from the former MVP of the Spanish League was the first double-double of his NBA rookie season, a 10-point, 14-rebound performance in 26 minutes and 34 seconds of solid play.

“It wasn’t good when Tim got injured in the game, and I just came out to try to do my best and help the team with the dirty job,” Splitter said. “Grab the rebound, (play) defense and score when my teammates pass me the ball. Easy layups. Tony (Parker) did a great job, and Manu (Ginobili) also.”

Popovich was not surprised Splitter gave the Spurs a lift.

“Tiago is going to give you that (effort) every night,” Popovich said. “He’s going to bust his butt to rebound and play defense. He’s going to give you that grunt that every team needs and every coach loves.

“That’s nothing different from him. That’s just what he does.”

Parker, who had a career-high 15 assists, and Ginobili played to Splitter’s strength on offense, involving him in a lot of pick-and-roll action.

“He’s one of the best at rolling to the basket,” Parker said. “He played physical and went to the boards. He did his best on defense. He’s still learning, but tonight he did pretty good.”

BLAIR SITS: Duncan’s injury put the Spurs in a big-man bind Monday when he joined DeJuan Blair on the injured list. Blair, the second-year center, sat out with a sprained left wrist.

Popovich said the club scratched Blair from the lineup for precautionary reasons, not wanting him to get the wrist “whacked” while it is still sore.

A MILESTONE IN WAITING: Before he departed, Duncan grabbed three rebounds, catching Dennis Rodman for 11th place on the NBA’s all-time rebound list. He has 11,954. Rodman played the bulk of his career with the Pistons and Bulls but also had two seasons with the Spurs, 1993-94 and 1994-95.

BONNER’S WOES: The 3-point slump continued for Matt Bonner on Monday.

After making only 2 of 11 shots from long range in the previous five games, the NBA’s leader in 3-point accuracy made his first 3-point attempt against the Warriors but missed his next seven.

He finally added a second 3-pointer with 2:10 remaining.

“I was wondering if I was ever going to make another three,” Bonner said, “but I’m not going to stop shooting them. If I stop shooting them when I’m open, I know I’m coming out of the game.”

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