There was a lot of fanfare surrounding Mike Budenholzer’s first return trip to San Antonio as the head coach of the Atlanta Hawks, and to be honest, the game absolutely lived up to the billing. However, the Hawks fell just short in San Antonio, as Tim Duncan and the Spurs squeaked out a 102-100 victory at home.
After a back-and-forth battle for more than 2 and a half quarters, the Hawks exploded for an 8-0 run that was bookended by threes on the part of Paul Millsap (there’s more of this coming) and Shelvin Mack, and with the run, Atlanta took their largest lead of the night at 71-63 with 1:57 left in the 3rd quarter. The Spurs weren’t going away, however, and they immediately rattled off a 10-0 run to close the quarter, and didn’t let up in completing a 21-5 blitz that pushed them back ahead by 8 points with 8:22 remaining.
From there, it was a slow climb for the Hawks, but eventually, they were back in the game in the late moments. The visitors went on a 7-0 run to cut the lead to 1 at 84-83, and nearly completed the comeback before San Antonio’s Danny Green hit what appeared to be a back-breaking three (on a broken play, no less) to give the Spurs a 7-point lead with less than 3 minutes remaining. However, the Hawks didn’t go quietly, as a Paul Millsap stepback three (yes, you read that right) to cut the lead to 1 with 17 seconds left, and after Manu Ginobili knocked down two free throws, the Hawks had one final chance.
Jeff Teague came through in the clutch for Atlanta, knocking down a 3 to tie the game (!!) at 100 a piece with just 4.7 seconds left, but unfortunately, his bucket wouldn’t carry the Hawks into overtime. That is because Spurs great Tim Duncan (with some help from his head coach) came free on a pin-down on the closing possession, and Duncan swished a 16-foot jumper to put the game away for the Spurs with a 2-point victory.
Obviously, this was a back of a soul-crushing loss, simply because of the make-up of the comeback followed by the backbreaking dagger by Duncan. However, there were a ton of positives to Atlanta’s performance, and they were headlined by some big-time efforts from the starters. Paul Millsap led the way statistically with 15 points and 14 rebounds, and while he shot just 6 of 20 on the night (yikes), he saved the best for last with a couple of enormous threes and a thunderous dunk over Duncan.
DeMarre Carroll had a fantastic night with 17 points and 8 rebounds, and he continuously seemed to make San Antonio pay for leaving him open on corner 3′s. The Jeff Teague-Al Horford duo also came to play on Monday, as Teague put up a 19-point, 7-assist that included the game-tying three, and Horford finished with 18 points and 7 rebounds despite having to deal with Duncan for the majority of the night.
The Spurs were just too much, though, and the aforementioned Duncan was the chief reason why. The future Hall of Famer finished with 23 points and 21 rebounds (to go along with the game-winner), and it was his 22nd career game with at least 20 points and 20 boards. The superlatives never end for Duncan, but it is also a positive that the Hawks were in this game all night despite a throwback effort from one of the game’s best.
Defensively, the Hawks have room for an improvement as they come off of this night having allowed San Antonio to shoot 54% from the field. However, the Spurs’ execution was scary good at times, and I frankly thought the defensive performance was solid by Atlanta for the majority of the night.
This loss is the 16th straight in San Antonio for the Hawks, and it’s been a virtual house of horrors. However, there is a lot of good to glean from this one, and Coach Bud will certainly attempt to use this as a springboard to better things, as the team returns home to host the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday. Stay tuned.