Apr 6, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Matt Bonner (15) attempts to save a ball from going out of bounds during the second half against the Memphis Grizzlies at AT&T Center. The Spurs won 112-92. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Bonner to start in Game 5 vs. Thunder

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.

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.

Tags: Gregg Popovich Matt Bonner NBA NBA Playoffs 2014 San Antonio Spurs Tiago Splitter

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