Bucks start strong but fade late in loss at San Antonio
SAN ANTONIO — The depth that San Antonio showed off in Miami, even though it led to a hefty fine and a stern rebuke from the NBA, yielded an inspired victory for the Spurs.
Tony Parker and Gary Neal each scored 22 points, and San Antonio had a season-high 53 rebounds in a 110-99 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night.
Tim Duncan added 17 points and 10 rebounds for San Antonio (15-4). Tiago Splitter had 15 points, Manu Ginobili scored 11 and Matt Bonner had a season-high 12 rebounds.
Even with Neal starting in place of an injured Danny Green, San Antonio’s bench had 40 points, 25 rebounds and 13 rebounds, and fueled a decisive 36-13 run bridging the final two quarters against Milwaukee (8-9).
“It was our best group all night, on the court,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “They were really active defensively. They all rebounded. Matty Bonner was awesome on the boards and on the other end, the ball moved. Nobody held it, so that group did a good job at both ends and got the win for us.”
The bench’s contributions came hours after NBA commissioner David Stern reaffirmed that his decision to fine San Antonio $250,000 was “appropriate.”
Stern said Popovich’s choice to send Parker, Duncan, Ginobili and Green home rather than play a nationally televised game Thursday in Miami was “not about a coaching decision. This is more about the relationship among our 30 teams and 30 owners.”
The Spurs believe Popovich’s move was smart coaching.
“They’re talented,” Parker said. “They showed it in Miami and tonight they showed it again. Pop is always trying to do stuff to make sure our bench is performing and tonight it definitely performed.”
San Antonio’s starting unit struggled against Milwaukee, trailing 70-64 with 5:21 left in the third quarter following a 16-foot jumper by Samuel Dalembert.
That’s when Popovich turned to the group that Miami needed a late rally to overcome.
San Antonio closed the third on a 12-6 spurt, fueled by 3-pointers by Bonner, Ginobili and Nando De Colo. A defensive goaltending call against Larry Sanders on a layup by De Colo gave the Spurs a 78-76 lead, their first since late in the first half.
“They brought in their second unit and De Colo really got them going with his passing,” Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles said. “They just went on a run and we couldn’t get back into the game.”
Monta Ellis had 21 points and 11 assists for Milwaukee. Brandon Jennings added 14 points and Ersan Ilyasova scored all of his 17 points in the first half.
San Antonio outrebounded Milwaukee 53-36, including a 28-17 advantage in the second half.
The Spurs opened the game by missing their first 11 attempts before Parker banked in a runner with eight minutes left in the opening quarter. The Spurs offset that poor shooting with 11 rebounds.
Ilyasova scored eight straight points for the Bucks in a two-minute span late in the first quarter, besting his season average of 6.9.
“In the first half, we were sharing the ball more,” Ilyasova said, “getting open looks and knocking them down. In the second half, they played better defense.”
Every active Spurs player with the exception of James Anderson scored for San Antonio, which needed the balanced scoring with Green, Stephen Jackson, Kawhi Leonard and Patty Mills all sitting out with injuries.
San Antonio recalled G Cory Joseph and G De Colo after assigning both to the team’s NBDL team in Austin to get some playing time. De Colo was assigned to the Toros on Sunday, scored 14 points in 39 minutes that night and was recalled Monday. … San Antonio hosts Houston on Friday before opening a four-game road trip Saturday in Charlotte. The Spurs have three road trips of at least four games in the first 45 days of their season. Their nine road wins are the most by any team in the NBA this season. Oklahoma City is second with six.