Game 71: Spurs vs Hawks, Preview



Story Credit: NBA.COM

San Antonio finally won a close game. Now the Spurs will see if they can maintain the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference standings.

After closing out its homestand with a much-needed win, San Antonio travels to Atlanta on Wednesday night to face a playoff-hungry Hawks team looking to extend its season-high winning streak at Philips Arena.

Tuesday’s 107-106 victory over the Golden State Warriors was a welcome change for San Antonio (46-24), which had dropped three of four by seven total points.

“Definitely a relief,” said Roger Mason, who made an 18-footer with 23.9 seconds remaining to help snap the Spurs’ two-game skid. “Those last few games stung.”

San Antonio, which avoided its first three-game slide since an 0-3 start, lost its Southwest Division lead with Sunday’s 87-85 defeat to Houston, but regained it by a half-game later Tuesday night as the Rockets fell 99-86 at Utah.

“We’re obviously going through a rough patch,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, whose team improved to 17-10 in games decided by five or fewer points.

Tim Duncan scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as San Antonio capped its 2-2 homestand. The veteran forward has posted two consecutive double-doubles against the Hawks, including 19 points and 11 boards in a 95-89 win on Dec. 10.

Duncan, though, could get the night off in preparation for the playoffs.

Tony Parker had just six points on 3-of-13 shooting in the December victory. Now the star point guard looks for his third straight double-double after averaging 26.0 points and 11.0 assists in his last two games.

In the Spurs’ last game in Atlanta, Parker had a game-high 31 points and nine assists en route to a 95-83 win on Nov. 20, 2007.

The Hawks, though, have been one of the league’s best home teams this season with a 28-7 mark. Should it win its ninth straight at Philips Arena on Wednesday, Atlanta (42-29) also would trim its magic number for a playoff berth to one.

Atlanta is well behind Cleveland, Boston and Orlando in the East standings, yet has clinched its first winning season since going 31-19 in the lockout-shortened 1998-99 campaign.

Flip Murray has been a major contributor off the bench as the Hawks have won eight of nine overall. Atlanta’s sixth man is averaging 23.7 points on 56.5 percent shooting in his last three games, despite playing less than 29 minutes per game during this stretch.

“He’s been big all year coming off the bench,” Joe Johnson said of Murray, who scored a season-high 30 in Monday’s 109-97 win over Minnesota.

Murray had 17 points in the loss to San Antonio earlier this season.

Johnson, who scored 29 in that defeat, has been on the winning side against the Spurs just once in his four seasons with Atlanta – a 94-84 home victory on Dec. 10, 2005.

Johnson, though, remains confident the Hawks can maintain their home-court dominance against the Spurs, Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, who close out their four-game homestand.

“It’s going to be a big stretch, man, but I feel good about our chances here at home,” he said. “We’ve just got to come prepared and play our hearts out every night because it’s going to be tough.”

San Antonio has won five in a row against the Hawks, including two straight in Atlanta.

Team Player and Season Stats:

Highlights from December 10, 2008