An injured San Antonio squad travels to Atlanta tonight to take on a Hawks team that is third in the Eastern Conference, but would be on the outside looking in on the playoffs right now if they were a Western Conference team. The Spurs will be trying to rebound from its third loss to OKC this season, but more than that, San Antonio is just trying to stay healthy. Already without starters Danny Green and Tiago Splitter, the Spurs lost Kawhi Leonard for the next 3-4 weeks after he suffered a hand injury against Oklahoma City in the first half of Wednesday night's game.
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Tony Parker was seen working through pain in his hand during the OKC loss as well. The narrative going into the OKC game was the fact that San Antonio hasn't been able to beat the best teams in the league this season, but the injuries have piled up to the point that there is no fair barometer to measure San Antonio by right now. The fact that the Spurs are still near the top of the West and hanging with the better teams in the league without being close to full-strength is a testament to the depth of the roster.
That depth can carry a team against the middle and bottom-end of the NBA, but not against the elite teams. San Antonio found that out against OKC, but the Atlanta Hawks will not pose as big of a threat. The Hawks are 22-19 heading into the matchup with the Spurs. On Wednesday the Hawks knocked off Orlando by three points, led by Paul Millsap and his 24 points, six rebounds, five assists, three steals and five blocks. All five Atlanta starters scored in double figures, including 23 from Jeff Teague and 17 from DeMarre Carroll.
Atlanta has been wildly inconsistent this season, but the Hawks have shown the recent ability to knock off favored teams at home. Atlanta beat Indiana at home on January 8 and the Heat at home earlier this week. On the flip side, Atlanta is 5-5 over its last 10 games with two losses to the Nets and a loss to Memphis, Golden State, and Chicago mixed in there as well. The Hawks average 102.4 points per game, good enough for 12th in the league, but Atlanta is also one of the worst rebounding teams in the league despite leading the league in assists.
That makes stopping the initial sets of Atlanta very crucial. The Hawks are 26th in the league in total rebounding and are not apt to control the board on the offensive end, but what Atlanta can do is push the pace, spread the floor and use multiple weapons to score points. Millsap is probably Atlanta's best weapon, but the Hawks are starting to get real production from the people around Millsap with Al Horford out. Millsap has a 22.3 PER and is averaging almost 18 points and over eight rebounds a game. Teague is averaging 16.4 points and 7.4 assists per game. Kyle Korver is the only other active Atlanta player averaging in double digits this season.
Rim protection will be an issue for the Hawks, as they are without both Al Horford and Pero Antic, which means Gustavo Ayon will probably start at center. Ayon is statistically one of the worst rim protectors in the league, meaning Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili should have a field day in the paint with him in the game.
The bench is also a dicey area for the Hawks, and that will benefit a depleted San Antonio team that will need the bench players to play more minutes with three starters lost. Four Atlanta players recorded over 13 minutes off the bench against Orlando, but it was the only four bench players that registered minutes in the game for Atlanta. Mike Scott and Shelvin Mack each recorded 10 points in the win, but the bench as a whole scored a total of 26.
Normally, this would be a mismatch for the Spurs because of the lack of bench owned by the Hawks. That all changes due to three injuries to starters, however, the Spurs do have the advantage of being used to playing without a full lineup during the regular season. San Antonio's offense has been fine, but the Spurs must slow down the early offense from the Hawks to win this game on the road.
Hawks perspective can be found at: Peachtree Hoops
Game Prediction: Spurs by 7
Opening Line in Vegas: Spurs by 4 1/2
As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and NBA league pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area. Please don't post links to illegal game feeds in the game thread. Links to illegal feeds are not permitted on SBNation, but you can probably find them out there on the internets if you're resourceful and desperate.
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