UPDATE (!): Kyle Korver has been ruled out for Monday’s game, according to a report from Chris Vivlamore of the AJC. Lou Williams will take his place in the starting lineup, leaving the bench short-handed and the Hawks without their best shooter for the 4th straight game.
Date: December 2, 2013
Tip-Off Time: 8:30 PM ET
TV Channel: SportSouth (Local in Atlanta), NBA League Pass
Radio: 92.9 FM (Atlanta Flagship), Atlanta Hawks Radio Network Affiliates
Live Stream: League Pass Broadband
Normally in this space, we discuss on-court match-ups as the “lead” to any game, but this isn’t your average NBA tilt. Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer is traveling back to San Antonio for the first time as a member of the visiting team, and after 18 seasons on the bench with Gregg Popovich and company, that’s worthy of attention. The two teams did face off in the preseason, when the Spurs edged the Hawks by 2 points in Philips Arena, but this is the true return, and it’ll surely be an interesting night for Coach Bud.
As far as on-court activities are concerned, the Spurs are a juggernaut (once again) this season, and they’ll also be on the perturbed side after dropping their first home loss of the season on Saturday night at the hands of the Houston Rockets. For reference on just how good the 14-3 Spurs have been this season, they are 7th in the league in offensive efficiency (104.8 points per 100 possessions), 2nd in defensive efficiency (allowing just 93.2 points per 100), and 2nd in overall “net” rating (i.e. the difference between the two) at 11.5 points per 100. In short, they are absolutely outstanding on both ends, and they’ve done it without anything resembling an MVP candidate.
There are two incredibly interesting match-ups in this game for me, and they are spread out with one in the backcourt and one closer to the rim. Tony Parker and Jeff Teague will face-off in what many are calling the “Budenholzer Bowl”, as Teague’s emergence this season has drawn many comparisons to the way that San Antonio uses Parker. I would certainly fall short of placing Teague in that class at this point, but it’s easy to see the similarities based on their loads of responsibility, and we’ll get a 1-on-1 snapshot here.
Up front, Al Horford and Tim Duncan will square off in my dream match-up. Long-time readers will know that my love for Tim Duncan knows no bounds, and even in a “down” year for the greatest power forward of all-time, he’s averaging 16.3 points and 9.4 rebounds per 36 minutes. There is a real argument to say that Horford is the better player of the two at this stage, but using Duncan as a measuring stick is a high honor, and Al will have that challenge here.
The Atlanta offense will be challenged in a big way here, but for me, the defensive side of the ball is where the difference will be made between being competitive and getting blown off the floor in the AT&T Center. San Antonio ranks in the top-5 in both eFG% and TS% on the season, and because their sets are run flawlessly, it puts a ton of pressure on the rotating defense. Keeping the 3-balls to a minimum will also be critical here for the Hawks, and the defensive efforts against both the Mavs (pre-4th quarter) and Wizards won’t hold up here.
On Kyle Korver watch, we don’t have a lot of information at the time of this post. Kyle has missed 3 consecutive games with a rib contusion, and didn’t make the trip to Washington on Saturday night. That certainly doesn’t (at least in itself) stop him from being available tonight, but we’ll bring you updates as they arrive.
If Kyle can go, he’ll be aiming to tie Dana Barros for the all-time NBA record at 89 consecutive games with a made 3-pointer, but more importantly for the prospects of a win, Korver’s ability to stretch the floor would be vital against a disciplined Spurs defense. (See above update).
The “experts” in Las Vegas have installed the Spurs as a 12.5-point favorite in the game, and my first thought was “yikes”. I do see the rationale behind it, as an angry/rested Spurs team playing at home against an opponent who is perceived to be inferior. However, a full-strength Hawks team (i.e. that includes Korver and Lou Williams) isn’t a 12.5-point underdog to anyone in any venue, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see a much more competitive result than that, despite the fact that Atlanta has lost fifteen straight games in San Antonio.
Stay tuned for updates throughout the night, and a full recap to follow.
Tags: Atlanta Hawks