The San Antonio Spurs hosted the visiting Atlanta Hawks, one of the NBA’s hottest team after winning 7 of their last 8, hoping to continue their best start ever and stay atop the NBA standings. The Hawks, on the other hand, are looking to break a 12 game losing streak on the Spurs home floor and improve their 8 – 3 road record.
Six minutes in, the Spurs have already given up 3 offensive rebounds and committed 3 turnovers, making a repeat of the previous two game’s fast starts seem unlikely. With both teams having trouble buying a basket, things are looking ragged. Can the Spurs protect the glass and the ball better or are they headed into another nail biter?
Follow me after the jump for a beast of a game.
Er, actually not. DeJuan was the only beast in the game.
Geez. Can we just, please, get the rock?
Apollo 440 - Stop The Rock (High Quality) (via ashleyk440)
1st Quarter: Where DeJuan is beasting and Tony is (still) fast
Admit it. After two fast starts against the Hornets and the Warriors, we were expecting more of the same against this Johnson-less Hawks. Surrendering an offensive rebound to start the quarter (with two more to follow), shooting ourselves in the foot with three turnovers and spotting them a one point lead after the first six minutes of the game may be enough to sour some fans on that brew. Not me. Not this year.
Last year, no lead was safe - for us. Those collapses were so unpredictable and predictable at the same time it deserved its own name, the RQC. What quarter, nobody knows. But everybody knows it’s coming.
This year, our early success instilled confidence not only to the team but to their fans as well. Seriously, during the Warriors game, I wanted to call the game after we got the lead in the first quarter.
The game against the Hawks started differently. On the second possession of the Spurs, the pace seems, . . . deliberate. They even made it a point to set up Timmy and DeJuan in the post. After giving up some defensive rebounds, giving away the ball with a couple of turnovers and a two minute period when both teams struggled, we were tied 10 – 10, 5:21 minutes to go in the first quarter.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, the backend of the quarter unfolded differently. With Manu and DeJuan on the bench, Tony took over during this span to increase the pace and keep up with the Hawks by scoring six points and assisting an RJ three pointer which gave us a lead we would keep until the end of the quarter. With 2:16 minutes left, Tony was given a breather. Everyone contributed on both ends of the floor to end the quarter 26 – 21 good guys.
2nd Quarter: Turnovers are annoying, lots of turnovers are really annoying
Ending a quarter strong is a good thing. Pop sure would love for the team to carry the momentum to the start of the next quarter. No such luck. The Hawks are party poopers. Disregarding the law of momentum, the Hawks started the second quarter with defense, forcing the Spurs into 3 turnovers and giving up an offensive rebound. They scored eight straight points to take the lead, 29 – 26. Pop called a timeout. I don’t want to be in that huddle. At this point the Spurs have already committed eight turnovers which the Hawks had converted to 14 points. Shoot.
Out of the timeout, after holding hands and singing Kumbaya, Matty got a 3 to tie it at 29 – 29. For the next three minutes or so Manu would take over and score 7 points to change leads with the Hawks, the last one an and-1 to take the lead 38 – 37.
After the Hawks timeout, miscues from both sides kept the score close with Tony initiating the offense, DeJuan fighting for rebounds and George ready to shoot the 3. The last few minutes of the quarter saw some helter-skelter play from both sides with DeJuan making it entertaining with a fast break play and an assist to Bibby (yes, that is not a typo). An and-1 by Wilkins cut the Spurs lead to 53 – 48 as they go into the halftime break.
3rd Quarter: Seriously, stop hanging out with me
The Spurs usually use the third quarter to tighten the screws on defense and play sharp on the offensive end to create separation heading to the last quarter. Unfortunately, the Hawks were having none of it and using their length and athleticism, played the Spurs to what feels like a stand still.
The quarter featured several periods of scoring draughts punctuated by some scoring exchanges. Unable to utilize their fast break play, the Spurs opted to attack their big men by running some plays for Timmy. Exchanging almost shot for shot, both teams were unable to put some distance between them.
The Spurs passed the ball well near the end of the quarter and got a 3 from Matty only to have Williams answer with their own 3 and peg the score at 69 – 71, the Spurs with the slim lead going into the last quarter.
The Spurs are 16 – 0 when scoring 100 or more. They need a big 4th quarter to reach 100. Uh-oh, holding a slim two point lead, this one’s shaping up to be a nail biter.
4th Quarter: Dagger time
The quarter started out of script. The Hawks went on a 4 – 0 run to start the fourth and grab the lead 73 – 71. Some Spurs fans are having unpleasant flashbacks of a lost lead in the fourth quarter of a very important game this season. Manu took matters into his own hands and got to the free throw line to take back the lead 76 – 73. A couple of points from Dejuan and George increased the lead to 7.
Substitutions were made and on the floor are Tony, George, RJ, Dejuan, and Matty. Then it all suddenly clicked. Using ball movement and Tony’s penetration, it started raining 3’s. Dagger after dagger of a 3 point shot from RJ, one from George and a couple of layups from DeJuan and Tony for good measure. A seven point lead grew to 14 in a matter of minutes.
One minute to go in the game and it became official. The HVC entered the game. Game over. Spur 108, Hawks 92. Spurs win!
Your Three Stars:
3 – George Hill – George was solid on D, was determined during the ragged parts of the game and was part of the 4th quarter unit that shot down the Hawks. 16 pts, 3-4 3-pts, 5-6 ft.
2 – Richard Jefferson – RJ rained three dagger 3’s midway in the 4th to turn what was a close game into a runaway one (the game RJ not you). 18 pts, 5-6 3-pt, 4 reb.
1 – DeJuan Blair – DeJuan continued his energetic play from the Warrior game and was on beast mode early. His awesome play late in the game gave Pop the luxury to sit Timmy the rest of the game. 16 pts, 12 reb, 3 ast, 4 stl and 1 blk in 27 min.
The Hawks have length and athleticism and they used it to get their hands in the passing lane and on the offensive glass. They played defense, went toe-to-toe with the Spurs and hung on for more than three quarters hoping to steal one on the road.
The Spurs are beasting right now (yeah not just you DeJuan). It's not perfect yet, but it looks like they’re getting there. The weird schedule is a boon as well as a curse. Meeting the same teams in a short period of time fosters a playoff-like situation where you can really game plan ahead and make adjustments to the other team’s play. And the Spurs thrive on that. Pop thrives on tweaking the team’s play to plug holes and turn a weakness into a strength. The curse is, the team doesn’t get to test their mettle against other good teams and learn from that experience.
Curse or boon, the Spurs are making the most of their situation early in the season. They’ll ride the fast start and keep grinding out W’s to reach a favorable record. The path may have changed in that the playoff seeding is now important, but the destination has always been the same – a victory ride down the Riverwalk.