After coming off an impressive win against the Nash-less Phoenix Suns, the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Atlanta Hawks (44-34) in Atlanta 97 to 90.
“It was a huge win for us,” said Spurs guard Manu Ginobili after the game.
The Hawks currently represent the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Defense, and a very efficient game from the “Big 3” were the keys to the Spurs’ victory on a night where they weren’t looking for their accustomed array of outside shots. The Spurs only attempted eight three pointers in the game.
After the game, Spurs guard George Hill commented on head coach Gregg Popovich’s main focus.
“He wants us to be a solid team defensively.”
The game began with Spurs guard Tony Parker and forward Tim Duncan combining for 10 of the Spurs’ 12 points halfway through the quarter. For the Hawks, forward Al Horford and guard Joe Johnson combined for eight of the Hawks’ 10 points midway through the first.
Jamal Crawford came in off the bench and scored seven points for the Hawks, the Spurs’ offense struggled as the team only connected on eight baskets in the first quarter as they trailed Atlanta 16 to 21.
In the second quarter, Atlanta’s defense forced the Spurs to turn the ball over and the frontcourt of Spurs forwards DeJuan Blair and Matt Bonner yielded an uncontested Jeff Teague layup and a Marvin Williams coast-to-coast layup. The Hawks lead increased to eight points (32-24) with 8:34 remaining.
George Hill came off the bench and scored on two drives’ to the basket and made the only three pointer of the game for the Spurs. He had seven points quickly off of the bench.
“I’m just trying to do what Coach Pop asked me to do,” Hill said. “He told me, keep firing away.”
Blair took advantage of Atlanta’s pick-n-roll defense as he scored six points early.
The Spurs didn’t shoot their first free throw until the 3:10 mark of the second quarter. As the game went on that would change as they visited the line 26-times and made 22 of their free throws.
Tony Parker used a dashing spin move on Atlanta guard Kirk Hinrich then Horford followed with a dunk on Spurs forward Antonio McDyess. The Spurs trailed 41 to 46 with 24 seconds left in the half.
With the half closing, Ginobili found Duncan for a driving layup to continue exposing the Hawks’ struggling pick-n-roll defense.
The half ended with Hill blocking Johnson’s jump-shot and the Spurs cut a one time 11-point Atlanta lead to three points (46-43). Tim Duncan had 14-points at the half and his teammate Parker contributed with eight.
Richard Jefferson came out of halftime aggressively by hitting two jumpers off screens and driving to the basket. The result was a foul call and Jefferson immediately had five quick points to open the third quarter.
It took less than five minutes for the Spurs to take the lead in the third quarter, as they led 54 to 52 with 7:30 remaining.
Tony Parker made a magnificent layup by driving to his left side, jumping into the air (the ball in his right hand), then switched the ball to his left hand while in the air. Parker scored 10 points in the third quarter.
The Spurs’ defense had their best quarter in the third as they held Atlanta to just 19 points. The Spurs would enter the fourth quarter with a 66 to 65 lead.
In the fourth quarter, George Hill made a steal and finished with a breakaway layup as the Spurs lead rose to 77 to 72 with 8:40 left. Post-game, Ginobili commented on Hill’s defense.
“He’s our best defender on the wing area.”
The fourth quarter belonged to Ginobili as he scored 12 of his 18 points. A scary play happened as Ginobili was accidentally clotheslined by Hinrich. A flagrant one was called and Ginobili would connect on the free throws. The Spurs led 83 to 79 with 6 minutes remaining.
With 3:31 remaining, Parker connected on two back-to-back jumpers to increase the Spurs’ lead to eight (89-81).
The Spurs continued to execute down the stretch as Parker found McDyess on a cut and the lead rose to ten (92-82) with 2:56 remaining.
With a seven-point lead in their pockets, Ginobili turned the ball over with less than 30 seconds remaining. The team would however prevent Atlanta from scoring on the opposite end.
Though Ginobili was happy with the win, he did make a comment of the Spurs recent games: “I don’t feel like we are playing our best basketball right now.”
With the win, the Spurs (59-19) would increase their lead over the Los Angeles Lakers to three games.
“We are in a great situation,” Ginobili said.
When asked about the journey from being on a six game losing streak to a two game-winning streak Ginobili gave all the credit to his coach:
“One of the few coaches who is a true leader,” said Ginobili, “He keeps us humble.”
- The Lakers would go on to lose to the Utah Jazz later in the evening as the Spurs lead for the top seed in the Western Conference increased to 3.5 games.
- The Spurs only need to win two games to clinch the number one seed in the Western Conference.
- The “Big 3” all played efficiently as Parker led with 26 points, Ginobili followed with 18 points and Duncan ended with 17 points.
- George Hill was the only bright spot off the bench as he scored 13 points. Bonner (2), Blair (7) and Gary Neal (0) only combined for nine points.
- After playing a good chunk of minutes against the Suns on Sunday, Spurs forward Tiago Splitter never stepped onto the floor against Atlanta.
- Although Joe Johnson scored 21 points for the Hawks, George Hill was key in forcing him to attempt 23 shots to collect those points.
- Hawks forward Josh Smith did not play in the game because he was nursing an injury.