San Antonio forward Matt Bonner may be playing limited minutes this season but he still consistently gets a game’s worth of aggravation from Gregg Popovich.
The not-so-silent pleas from the Spurs coach to have Bonner stop passing up open shots paid off Monday night, allowing San Antonio’s Big Three to get some needed rest against the hapless Philadelphia 76ers.
Bonner had 18 points and San Antonio never trailed, handing Philadelphia a 100-75 loss – their 10 straight loss to open the season.
Duncan had 16 points and nine rebounds and Kawhi Leonard had five points and 11 rebounds in limited action. Cory Joseph added 14 points for San Antonio (6-4), which never trailed.
It was the first time Bonner has led the Spurs in scoring since Jan. 5, 2012, when he had 17 in a 22-point victory over Utah.
"It’s a shooter’s mentality," Bonner said. "I actually got yelled at a couple times by Pop earlier in the season when I was having an off game and had a look he thought I should have shot and I didn’t. I drove it and kicked it; and he got mad. He wants me to shoot it."
Bonner, who was averaging 4.7 points per game, was 7 for 10 from the field.
"It takes a couple of open shots to see the ball go in a little bit," Duncan said. "Hopefully that can kind of catapult him into a little bit of confidence; a little bit of feel of the ball to see that confidence continue."
Even when Bonner went against Popovich’s advice and passed up an open shot, things went right. He gave up a 3-pointer to drive to the basket and toss in a floating jumper that even astounded him. The "Red Mamba," as he is affectionately called by Spurs television announcers, smiled sheepishly and shrugged his shoulder as he walked to the bench. Philadelphia coach Brett Brown called timeout following the shot.
It was that kind of an evening for the Spurs, which seemed to get everything it wanted against the 76ers.
Duncan played 16 minutes and Tony Parker 18, as both sat out the entire fourth quarter after playing just five minutes in the third.
San Antonio won its 10th straight at home over Philadelphia and seventh overall against the hapless Philadelphia.
Michael Carter-Williams had a team-high 16 points and four assists. Last season’s NBA Rookie of the Year was playing in just his third game after missing the entire preseason and the first seven games of the season with a right shoulder injury.
Carter-Williams’ return did little to right Philadelphia, which is losing by an average of 15.5 points this season.
With Duncan, Parker and Ginobili and Leonard resting comfortably on the bench, Philadelphia pulled within 74-64 on Luc Mbah a Moute’s 3-pointer with 10 minutes remaining.
The 76ers followed it with three missed shots and a turnover, enabling the Spurs to rebuild their lead to 83-65 with 5:33 remaining.
"I don’t think that the losses are getting to us," Philadelphia guard Tony Wroten said. "We’ve played well in a few games. A few turnovers here, a few bad decisions there; we’re not far away from where we want to be. Even having 10 losses, I think we’ve shown we can compete, and we’ve just got to keep pushing it."