Game Preview: Atlanta Hawks at San Antonio Spurs

Jan 1, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) boxes out San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) in overtime at Philips Arena. The Hawks won 114-112 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 1, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) boxes out San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) in overtime at Philips Arena. The Hawks won 114-112 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

The San Antonio Spurs will continue their quest for the first seed in the Western Conference tonight when they host the Atlanta Hawks.

It’s been a wild week in San Antonio.

They clinched a playoff berth for the 20th consecutive season, won their 50th game for the 18th straight season, had a nine-game winning streak, and lost Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge.

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Now, a new week begins, and it involves the Atlanta Hawks.

The Hawks enter this game on a three game winning streak with a record of 37-29, currently 5th place in the Eastern Conference.

The San Antonio Spurs, on the other hand, are entering this game with a record of 51-14, just 0.5 games back of the Golden State Warriors for first place in the Western Conference.

Despite the Spurs winning 10 of the last 11 games, and in prime position to over-take the first seed, fans are worried about the injuries to both Leonard and Aldridge.

As of now, Aldridge, along with Tony Parker and Dejounte Murray, will not play tonight.


— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) March 13, 2017

Leonard’s status for tonight’s game is still up in the air.

Leonard was struck in the face in the third quarter during the Oklahoma City Thunder game on Thursday, and was forced to miss Saturday’s matchup against the Warriors.

Many are optimistic that Leonard passed all of his tests within the concussion protocol, and will be ready to go tonight against the Hawks.

Kawhi Leonard at shootaround today. Listed as questionable for tonight's game vs. Hawks #Spurs

— Hannah Trippett (@Hannah_Trippett) March 13, 2017

The last thing the Spurs want to do is rush Leonard back, and risk further injury. However, in the race for first place, every game from here on out is incredibly crucial.

The Warriors do not play tonight. With a win, the Spurs can take over the number one spot in the Western Conference.

Regardless if Leonard plays or not, tonight’s matchup is no walk in the park, considering the Hawks have already beaten the Spurs back in January.

The First Matchup

The Spurs and Hawks faced-off in Atlanta back on January 1st, a game the Hawks won in over-time, 114-112.

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  • The Hawks were led in scoring by Paul Millsap, who had 32 points on 11/23 shooting, along with 13 rebounds and three assists. Tim Hardaway Jr. was the second leading scorer with 29 points on 11/13 shooting, including six of seven from beyond the arc. Dennis Schroder chipped in 16 points and 10 assists.

    For the Spurs, Aldridge had a team-high 27 points on 12/17 shooting, along with 13 rebounds. The Spurs will be without Aldridge for tonight’s game in San Antonio.

    Parker had 22 points of his own, along with seven assists. Parker will also miss tonight’s game. Leonard had one of his pedestrian outings, scoring just 13 points on 3/12 shooting, along with four rebounds and two assists.

    This game featured two solid teams, who both played relatively well. If you can point to one differentiating stat, it would be the three point shooting.

    The Hawks were 14 of 28 from beyond the arc, while the Spurs were 9 of 27.

    Ultimately, it came down to the final minutes of the game, where the Hawks wanted it more. At the time, the Hawks were on an 11-game losing streak, and were desperate for a home victory. The Spurs weren’t as hungry, and Leonard had one of his worst performances of the season.

    This time around, the Spurs will be without their leading scorer from the first matchup (Aldridge), their second leading scorer from the first matchup (Parker), and potentially their MVP candidate Leonard.

    The Current Matchup

    The Spurs will be looking for a way to defeat the Hawks tonight, despite being undermanned. In the first outing, the Spurs were led by Aldridge and Parker, both of which are unavailable tonight.

    Spurs are now 51-14, good for the third-best record through 65 games in San Antonio franchise history.

    — Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) March 12, 2017

    We’ll proceed with the notion that Leonard will be available tonight.

    If so, the Spurs chances of victory increase exponentially, of course.

    Offensively, the Spurs average 106.5 points per game, 11th in the NBA. The Hawks are averaging 104.0 points per game, 20th in the NBA. The Spurs are shooting a combined 47.3% from the field, fourth in the NBA. The Hawks are shooting a combined 45.7% from the field, 14th in the NBA.

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    Defensively, the Spurs are allowing 98.3 points per game, second in the NBA. The Hawks are allowing 104.4 points per game, 11th in the NBA.

    The Hawks are healthy, and it will take a total team effort to defeat them. The Hawks don’t do anything great, but they also don’t anything bad, either. They are a balanced team that relies on everybody doing their part, which is why they were so successful last season. However, this season they are without Al Horford, Jeff Teague, and Kyle Korver.

    The Spurs, on the other hand, are giving up some depth in the front-court, and significant depth in the back-court with Parker and Murray missing. In tonight’s game, we can expect a heavy does of Patty Mills and Manu Ginobli.


    First things first: If Leonard misses this game, the Spurs will likely suffer defeat. Considering Aldridge and Parker did the bulk of the scoring in the first matchup, it’s hard to imagine where the offense would come from without them – and Leonard.

    If Leonard is ready to go, the Spurs will squeak out a victory at the AT&T Center.

    With Leonard back in the lineup without Aldridge, the opportunities to score will be plentiful, and I believe Leonard can flourish with more shot opportunities. On the season, Leonard is averaging 17.9 field goal attempts a game. Expect that to be over 20 tonight.

    After 65 games, the Spurs continue to rank 1st in Defense and 5th in Offense.

    Rockets are right on tail of Warriors for best offense.

    — Paul Garcia (@PaulGarciaNBA) March 12, 2017

    We can also expect a heavy dose of Dewayne Dedmon, who has been quiet since the return of Pau Gasol. He will be tasked with guarding Dwight Howard, who is still a prominent force down-low.

    Usually when your starting point guard and starting power forward are forced to miss games, the team misses a beat in their absence. However, Gregg Popovich consistently uses a 10-man rotation, so that if injuries occur, players are ready to step up.

    Leonard was benched last Wednesday for rest, played three quarters in Oklahoma City on Thursday, and missed the game against the Warriors on Saturday.

    It’s safe to say that Leonard is rested, and ready to lead his team to victory tonight in San Antonio.

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    Leonard returns and scores 30+ points.

    Gasol, Lee, Mills, and Danny Green all finish in double-figures.

    Spurs inch out a close victory, 104-99.