When asked during the pre-game conference if he’d lead with the same starters as he did in the previous four games heading into Game 5 of the Western Conference finals, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich answered with a somber “Probably not.”
And as a man of his word, that change has taken place. Looking to shake things up after dropping the last two games to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Gregg Popovich has inserted stretch center Matt Bonner into the starting lineup in place of Tiago Splitter for Game 5 of the Western Conference finals.
The Parker, Green, Leonard, Duncan and Bonner lineup played 27 minutes together during the regular season.
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) May 30, 2014
Since Serge Ibaka’s return, the San Antonio Spurs have looked completely overwhelmed in games 2 and 3 of the series. They’ve struggled keeping up with him on offense and Ibaka’s presence at the rim has completely deterred the Spurs during any attempts at the rim. Placing Matt Bonner into the starting lineup, despite being a bit desperate, provides the chance that Ibaka is pulled away from the paint, giving the Spurs a chance to attack the rim without worrying about Ibaka’s shot-blocking ability. And if he chooses to chase the block, it’ll be at the cost of leaving Bonner, a career 41 percent shooter from three, opening behind the arch.
Prior to Game 4 of the Thunder-Spurs series, Bonner played fed minutes in the playoffs, averaging 4.1 minutes per game in the first 15 games of the postseason. There’s no guarantee that the ten year veteran will make a clear impact on this game, but if the Spurs want to take the lead in this series, they’ll need his spacing to be effective.