What a huge difference a good bench performance makes. The Spurs came into Friday night’s tilt with the Charlotte Hornets on a SEGBABA, looking to end a rare four-game losing streak. They were also coming up against one of the hottest guards in the league in Kemba Walker, who is averaging career highs of 24.6 ppg, 48.4% from the field, 41.9% from 3-pt, 92.2% FTs, and 6 assists.
He was held in check with just 13 points and 4 assists, although Jeremy Lamb scored 27 points, and Dwight Howard had a 20 point, 12 rebound double-double. However, that wasn’t enough for the Hornets to overcome a 64-16 advantage from the Spurs bench. Rudy Gay was huge with 20 points off the bench, including an important 13 points during a 19-4 run by the Spurs in the third quarter, helping them regain the lead for good.
Bryn Forbes was also excellent with 22 points and had that spark-plug mentality the Spurs need off the bench. Perhaps most importantly, Patty Mills found his stroke from outside on the way to 17 points on 4-7 from three to help end the Spurs losing streak with a 108-101 win. It helped prevent a losing record for the first time since early 2016 and for only the 49th day under Coach Gregg Popovich.
- Manu Ginobili, who was originally scheduled to sit this one out, joined Tim Duncan and Tony Parker as the only players to appear in 1,000 games for the Silver and Black. He’s still 143 games behind Parker, so odds are third is where he will remain. His 1,000th game wasn’t his finest, but he still gave us this reminder of who he is:
- The Spurs’ second bucket of the game was a Danny Green jumper off a crossover dribble. In classic Sean Elliott fashion, he initially begged Danny not to shoot that...until it went in. Doesn’t he know this is a new Danny Green on offense?
- Mills definitely seems more energetic starting than coming off the bench. His two-point shot is still off, but he did finally get his three falling, and they were timely ones at that: all in the fourth quarter. Hopefully this is the turning point for him.
- Players coming off Achilles tears should be able to dunk off that same foot like Gay did in the third quarter:
- Impossible as it may seem, Howard is currently averaging a career low in FT percentage at just 37.3% (he was 10-20 tonight). His next worst is 48.9% two years ago. Could the fact that he just catches the ball from the ref and shoots it without even a dribble have something to do with the even worse numbers this year?
- The new James Harden Rule is really starting to weigh on refs over what is a continuation shot and what is a foul on the floor. There have been several instances, including tonight, where a foul that seemed to come after a player had gathered the ball to shoot was ruled a common foul. I blame this more on the league than the refs, and although I’m glad the rule is being enforced, it may behoove the league to assist the officials on how to better determine the even finer line between a shooting and common foul.
For the Hornets fans’ perspective, visit At the Hive.
The Spurs return to action on Sunday to take on the Phoenix Suns at home. Tip-off will be at 6:00 pm CT.