This wasn’t the first time Matt Bonner swung a Bucks-Spurs game in favor of his team. Last November in San Antonio, Bonner hit six threes and scored 23 points to help the Spurs down a surging Bucks team playing without Andrew Bogut. He’s been in the league long enough and had enough success that he shouldn’t have been a surprise then and he certainly shouldn’t be a surprise now.
For whatever reason though, be it a failure to understand the scouting report, arrogance about defending him or maybe just all that skill Bonner possesses, Milwaukee couldn’t stop Matt Bonner in the second half of Wednesday night’s loss to the Spurs. The 3-point specialist scored 17 points while only hitting three long range shots in the second half. The mere threat he poses from deep was enough to keep Milwaukee off balance though.
Time after time, Bucks defenders were left standing and watching after closing out too hard to prevent a long range shot from Bonner. If Milwaukee closed hard enough to make him uncomfortable shooting a three, he’d just fake and drive right. Post game, Scott Skiles talked about his team’s struggles with Bonner, noting that every time he got the ball, he pump faked and went to his right.
Despite apparently preaching about this to his team in preparation for Wednesday’s game, the Bucks seemed clueless about how to defend Bonner’s moves. I should say move as he only used one. To his credit though, that move worked over and over and he knew when it was time to shoot and when it was time to fake. That’s a lesson Milwaukee could certainly stand to learn.
Bonner’s simple game, 3-point shots and drives to the hoop, illustrated why the Spurs offense operated so much more effectively than the Bucks in the second half. While the Bucks launched long twos or difficult shots in the paint, the Spurs filled it up from outside. San Antonio hit six threes in the second half while the Bucks managed to connect on just one. That 15 point difference in outside shooting success goes a long way towards explaining how the Spurs turned an eight point halftime deficit into a seven point margin of victory at the final buzzer.
This time though, it wasn’t only the Bucks shoddy second half offense that deserved the blame. A lack of attention to detail will derail virtually any team against a squad as talented as the Spurs. When the Bucks traveled to San Antonio earlier this season, Manu Ginobili was allowed left on his final shot, a game winner that was well defended, but too comfortable for him. Wednesday night Matt Bonner, not unlike Ginobili before him, was given access to lanes using his strong hand over and over. He’d make the Bucks pay by the end of the night for their lack of attention to detail.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan on Facebook (in the sidebar).