With Tim Duncan sitting out of last night's home game against the Charlotte Bobcats, the San Antonio Spurs were going to need some help from their second unit.
The reserves, and notably forward Steve Novak, delivered in a 109-98 win as the Spurs cruised to their 56th win of the season.
The Bobcats' only lead of the game came off a Gerald Henderson layup and free throw. The Spurs evened it up with 9:34 remaining in the first quarter and never looked back.
With Duncan out, Tiago Splitter, who most hoped would pair with Duncan in the paint this season, started in place of him.
But the real story was Novak, who was recently signed for the remainder of the season. Novak led the Spurs in scoring off the bench with 19 points on 5-of-8 from beyond the arch in just under 19 minutes.
"My role on this team is to spread the floor for guys like Timmy and let Tony get in the middle, break guys down and kick it out," Novak said. "That's what the Spurs have done long before I was here."
Gary Neal (15), George Hill (12) and Matt Bonner (10) also provided some offensive firepower off the bench, with all scoring in double figures.
"To have Steve come in and everyone off the bench, George, Gary and Steve all came in and did a great job," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
While Splitter is still far from playoff-ready, he did perform well in his first start, finishing with eight points, six rebounds and one blocked shot in 23 minutes.
The Spurs are now seven games ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers, who eclipsed the Dallas Mavericks for second place when the Spurs beat the Mavs on Friday night. With last night's win, the Spurs also now 32-3 at home.
“It all comes with how they share the ball. No one really holds it. They all seem like they make the right pass every time. They’re just so unselfish. If you can keep a defense off balance, you’re going to have open shots and if you have the weapons that they have you’re going to have a 17-made-attempts kind of night. That’s just the way it goes.” - Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson.
Yesterday, Jeff Garcia spoke to Bruce and Andrew from fellow Bloguin blog Trade Street Post about last night's Spurs-Bobcats game. Here's what they said were the keys to a Bobcats win.
"You can never count the Bobcats out. Tough defense, playing as a team, and hitting shots are the keys to our success. That was exactly what they did, however, playing a team with the chemistry that the Spurs have, it was, and always will be a tough team to overcome."
In Black and White
Little-used Novak shoots down Charlotte (San Antonio Express-News)
Spurs roll over Bobcats without Duncan (Charlotte Observer)
While Novak and Splitter played well against the Bobcats, I wouldn't take risks on them this late into your season. However, Henderson, has scored in double figures for the Bobcats in six of his last eight games. He could help at the bottom of your roster and will continue to see big minutes while Stephen Jackson is out.
The Four Factors
Novak doing so much in such a short amount of time on the floor makes me optimistic for the playoffs. Seems like he could be a Kerr-esque player for the Spurs.
This a great win because the Spurs were able to rest Duncan. They also essentially rested Manu and Tony for most part of the game. I expect more of the same tomorrow against the Warriors.
The bench stepped up! Tiago ain't so bad It's just a matter of giving him more time on the floor. Hopefully he gets another chance tomorrow and James Anderson too.