With the Hornets coming to town in the new year, and the ensuing reunion between the Parisian Torpedo (I got that from B-R. Has anyone ever actually called him that?) and the Sandwich Hunter, now’s a good time to look back at Tony Parker and Matt Bonner’s single best collaboration, outside of H-E-B commercials, in a decade of playing together.
It happened on the 12th of January 2014, midway through the redemption tour, against the Timberwolves on the first night of a back to back. Near the end of the 1st quarter, the Spurs ran their Motion Weak side pick and roll with a slight twist. Instead of having a typical big set the screen, they used Matt Bonner, who popped to the corner instead of rolling to the basket.
Matt’s shooting puts a lot of stress on the Timberwolves defense. After sliding with Tony Parker until Ricky Rubio recovered, Kevin Love has to run half the width of the court to get back out to Matt before he can take the corner 3. Love closes out hard, so Matt gives a slight pump fake then drives to his left.
Rubio drops down to cut off the penetration so Matt kicks it out to Tony just outside the three point line at the top of the key. Corey Brewer stunts off Kawhi Leonard for some reason to keep Tony from shooting, so Tony takes one dribble into the paint then tosses it to Matt on the right wing.
With Love committed to stopping Tony’s drive, Rubio now has responsibility for closing out on Matt, and he flies out to prevent the three. Matt takes a page out of Tony’s book and dribbles once to his right then kicks the ball back to Tony up top. This time, both Rubio and Brewer collapse on Tony, but Rubio comes too far and leaves a lane open to Tony’s right. That forces Love to drop down into the paint again to stop a layup, which leaves Matt all alone in the right corner.
Three seconds later, Matt’s high-arching shot drops through the basket, extending the Spurs’ lead out to 7 en route to an 18-point victory that pushed their record up to 29-8.
There are several interesting details on this play, not least of which that Corey Brewer is helping off of the guy who’s gonna be named Final’s MVP just a few months later. This was just under 5 years ago, and it’s easy to forget, but at this point Kawhi was averaging just under 12 points a game and shooting under 31% from three. His growth was nothing short of astonishing.
There’s also young Ricky Rubio sprinting all over the court like a mad man but not actually defending anyone. He, too, has come a long way since then; though, like Matt, his facial hair game was already at an All-Star level.
Last, but not least, check out the cat-that-ate-the-canary look on Matt’s face on the way back up the court. It’s pretty clear he got a kick out of that play. It’s easy to forget this is just a game sometimes, but moments like these are good reminders of how simple and fun basketball can be.