At a recent practice during the NBA Finals, a photo was taken of San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich leaning on the shoulders of Concord’s Matt Bonner. At the time, Bonner was seated on the court stretching out.
While not a superstar on a team with three superstars, the Granite Stater has made enough of an impression on Popovich to remain with the team for seven years. (Bonner was acquired in a trade by the Spurs from Toronto in 2006.)
Bonner and the “Big Three” — Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili — are the only players left from the 2007 championship team. The other 11 players on this year’s roster are making their Finals debut with the Spurs.
Tonight at 9 (ABC-TV), Bonner could be a member of a second NBA title team when the Spurs try to dethrone the defending NBA champion Heat at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Fla. It’s been nearly 15 years since Bonner led Concord High to three consecutive Class L boys’ basketball titles (1997-99).
San Antonio leads the best-of-seven series, 3-2.
Bonner, 33, is fourth in franchise history in three-point field goals made (553) and sixth in three-point field goal percentage.
Bonner has yet to make a significant contribution through the first five games of the series. He had no points in Game 1 in seven minutes, 17 seconds of action. In Game 2, in 7:43, he notched five points.
He did log 12:16 in the Game 3 blowout win, scoring two points from the free throw line after missing all three shots from the field, including two 3-pointers. In the Game 4 loss to Miami, he tallied four points in 7:26 and on Sunday, in a must-win situation for the Spurs, he played 1:26 in the 10-point win.
Bonner may have played his final home game with the “Big Three” intact as Sunday’s contest may have been the last home game for Ginobili, who is 36 years old and will become a free agent after this season.
Boston fans can attest it’s not out of the question that Bonner could end up in the spotlight deciding the outcome of tonight’s sixth game.
In 1976 in the classic NBA series between heavily favored Boston and an underdog Phoenix team, the Celtics went into three overtimes with the Suns in Game 5 at the old Boston Garden. Boston center Dave Cowens and forward Paul Silas fouled out of the game and head coach Tommy Heinsohn summoned Glenn McDonald and Jimmy Ard off the bench.
In the third overtime, McDonald scored six points, two of them on late free throws. He also had a rebound and drew a foul.
Ard hit two free throws and, as it turned out, the Celtics won the game by a bucket (128-126) for a 3-2 series lead. They closed out the series in Phoenix in six games.
Could Bonner play a key role late in a game or in overtime tonight?
It could happen.
Tonight’s game figures to be physical and if the officials call it tight, key starters in the Spurs’ lineup could pile up enough fouls and end up watching the game on the bench.
If that were to happen, Popovich would have to lean on Bonner on the biggest stage tonight.
Bonner has played in 63 total NBA playoff games with the Spurs and No. 64 would be a significant one for himself and the Spurs.