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December 01. 2012 8:29PM

Spurs end long road trip with controversial loss, $250K fine


 


Miami Heat power forward Rashard Lewis (9) drives to the basket as San Antonio Spurs power forward Matt Bonner (15) defends during the first half at American Airlines Arena. (Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE)

The Spurs ended their six-game road trip with a tough loss - and controversy - on Thursday night in Miami. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Danny Green all were sent home prior to the game, a move to rest key players and help them recover from a 10-day road trip.

Concord native Matt Bonner made his first start of the season, scoring 10 points with 10 rebounds, as the defending champions posted a 105-100 win. On Friday, the Spurs were fined $250,000 by the NBA.

Sunday News: What do you think coach Pop was thinking?

Matt Bonner: He's thinking big picture and trying to keep those guys rested and healthy for the entire season. It's a tough break that it happens on a night we're playing at Miami and on TNT, but coach Pop is more concerned with the overall wellness of the team. It feels like we've been on the road the whole season. We had an eight-day road trip before this trip, then went home for four days, then back on the road.

SN: Wouldn't those guys want to play against the Heat?

MB: Absolutely. Professional athletes have a competitive nature and want to compete, but coach Pop has the final say.

SN: The Spurs really showed a lot of character in that game.

MB: We had a lot of strikes against us heading into that game. We played four games in five nights on a 10-game road trip. Four starters weren't playing. A lot of the guys on the team haven't been playing, and it's hard to stay sharp and stay in shape when you're traveling so much on the road. Despite all these so-called excuses, we came together before the game and decided to play as hard as we can and play Spurs basketball. They're a great team. Defending champs. They showed it down the stretch and got the win. We had them. We had a couple tough turnovers and shot ourselves in the foot in the last minute, but you have to credit them.

SN: Ray Allen's 3-pointer with 22 seconds remaining was the dagger.

MB: That three by Ray was huge. We almost had the steal on LeBron (James) on that play. He somehow got it back and found Ray for the 3-pointer. Everyone back home knows what he usually does in that situation.

SN: What will it take for the Heat to become one of the NBA's all-time greatest teams?

MB: It's way too early. If you look back at the Celtics and Lakers and some of the great teams, they were great for 8-10 years. No doubt the Heat have an amazing roster and are the defending champs but if you want to be in that conversation, you need longevity.

SN: Are the Heat a better team right now than they were last season?

MB: I think they did get better. Those new guys (Allen and Rashard Lewis) add a whole new dimension and create more space for guys like LeBron and Dwyane Wade to slash.

SN: Is there any way to actually defend LeBron?

MB: We're certainly have a theory of playing team defense. It's almost impossible for one person to check the best offensive players in the league. You need to rely on your overall system, the weak side and rotations.

SN: Manu Ginobili said you are one of the core players and leaders of the team after playing seven years with the Spurs. What does that mean to you?

MB: It means a lot. Obviously, I've played a lot of games with those guys. I have tremendous respect for them as basketball players, competitors and human beings. The bottom line is the Spurs are all about doing things the right way and winning. When I was faced with a choice (two years ago) of being a free agent and maybe trying to get more money or increase my role somewhere else, it just wasn't worth it. I have it good here.

Bonner discusses The NBA Life each week with radio broadcaster Chris Ryan and New Hampshire Union Leader reporter Kevin Gray, and the interview appears weekly in the N.H. Sunday News.


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