Bowen adds offense to his smothering defense
By Chris Bernucca
SportsTicker Pro Basketball Editor
While Manu Ginobili has gotten most of the headlines, the Spurs have dominated the first two games of the NBA Finals in part because of Bowen, who has totally frustrated Hamilton, the leading scorer of the defending champions.
Considered by many to be the best perimeter defender in the NBA, the 6-7 Bowen has limited Hamilton to 28 points on 12-of-36 shooting in the first two games. On Sunday, Hamilton had 14 points on 5-of-15 from the field.
“I want to make sure I get a hand out, because once they make that one shot, that just sets them up for their next shot and the next shot after that,” Bowen said. “They are so accustomed to getting into rhythms, I try to make sure I can keep them from getting into a rhythm.”
Bowen’s defense is so good that the Spurs look to him to establish a tone on that end of the floor the same way a scorer does on offense.
“I understand that I’m the anchor of our D, and it’s kind of weird, but everyone accepts that,” he said. “They kind of feed off of me.”
Bowen is not expected to score much, as his career high of 8.2 points per game this season will attest. While limiting Hamilton to 7-of-21 shooting in the opener, he missed all six of his shots and did not score.
But with Ginobili drawing the defense with his penetration, Bowen repeatedly spotted up in the corners for his best offensive weapon - the 3-pointer. He made 4-of-8 from the arc - or four more than the entire Pistons team.
“He takes great pride in trying to make somebody on the other team work harder and tonight he combined it with knocking down some threes,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He didn’t have a whole lot of luck the first game with the threes but tonight he found it.”
“Today he just forgot about Game One, kept doing the same job on Rip and made himself available there in the corner,” Ginobili said.
Bowen had a 3-pointer as San Antonio opened the game with an 8-0 burst and never looked back. He really came alive in the third period, scoring eight points, including a 3-pointer that gave the Spurs their largest lead at 69-46 with 5:26 to go.
At the same time, Bowen was frustrating Hamilton, who came into this series averaging better than 21 points per game in the postseason but has not gotten untracked.
After making just 1-of-5 shots in the first half, Hamilton finally got loose for a fast-break layup early in the third quarter - and was hit with a technical foul for complaining about the defense being played against him.
“We just got to figure out just to go out and play basketball,” Hamilton said. “We felt as though the whistling didn’t go our way on some plays.”
The Pistons used their defense to get back in the game, cutting the deficit to 81-73 on a layup by Hamilton with 7:14 to play.
But the Spurs put together a clinching 13-0 that featured 10 free throws and just one basket - a 3-pointer by Bowen, who ended up outscoring his high-scoring counterpart.
“It’s always fun when the shots are going in for you,” Bowen said. “Being in this Finals right now and being able to have a game like this tonight where we did a great job shooting the three-ball and it’s the Finals, what else could you ask for?”