Afternoon rehash: Spurs rout Hawks in a battle of injury-depleted squads

Kevin C. Cox

The Spurs finally beat a top-3 seed. We did it, you guys!

Game 43: @Atlanta: Spurs 105, Hawks 79   Rec: 33-10  1st in Southwest, 2nd in West  Streak: W-1

It could be worse.

It could always be worse.

Whenever the Spurs have a bad loss or suffer an injury, nobody in the league wants to hear any excuses or feel the slightest bit of sorry for them, because of all the success the franchise has enjoyed the past, oh, 25 years. We can complain and moan and curse our bad luck, while the fans and pundits across the league just mutter expletives at our direction.

And it's not like we don't deserve it. God knows Spurs fans are spoiled, and even though I'd argue that we don't get our just due when it comes to highlights packages and national attention, there's no way to get around the success and good fortune the franchise has had when it comes to the drafts, trades, and free agent signings. Even the injury luck with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili has been pretty good, all things considered. I mean, there's simply no way The Golden God should be doing what he's doing in 2014. He should be relaxing on a beach somewhere, blissfully ignoring a world that was all-too-happy to ignore him right back during his prolific career.

Obviously some of the resentment toward the Spurs has to do with jealousy because of the way things have worked out for the franchise, not just in terms of wins they've racked up and the talent they've unearthed through the years, but I think even more so that, through the force of Pop's personality and maybe some dumb luck, the Spurs just always seem to be remarkably drama-free, year after year. There might be a minor blowup behind-the-scenes with a Stephen Jackson or the occasional bit of poor judgment from Parker, but it's never anything catastrophic enough to make the Spurs the lead story of a show, unless they're deep into the playoffs, which is just how they want it.

So even when the Spurs find themselves in a spot with three starters down, nobody blinks, nobody cares. People across the league just assume they'll figure it out, because they always have. This is a team that won at Golden State without their three best players earlier in the season, and by all rights should have done the same, while playing their fourth road game in five nights mind you, at Miami last year. Nobody will ever feel bad for the Spurs, least of all themselves. Pop will simply not allow it.

You want to feel bad for a team? Take a gander at last night's opponent, the Hawks. Their one real chance to win it all came 20 years ago, when they had, on paper, probably the best squad in the league, and a record to match. For some inexplicable reason they traded franchise icon Dominique Wilkins, just when he finally started caring about defense and showing genuine leadership. Traded him straight up, for Danny Manning. The Hawks were upset by the Pacers in the second round that year but anyone who watched the series knows it wasn't an upset at all. Since then they've never been relevant, never been in the championship conversation, and their games might as well be played in a morgue.

The Hawks were down three starters themselves last night, and their best player, Al Horford, is out for the season. Their second-best guy, Jeff Teague, sprained an ankle so that makes four starters lost.

So yeah, we've got it pretty good.

Standard Pop Quote:

"Coming off the bench, [Mills] really made the spread for us. But [the Hawks] really had a bad night and they had too many guys hurt. There are too many good teams and too much talent in the NBA to lose guys of that caliber. ... It's no fun at all [coaching against former Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer]. If you win you feel bad, and if you lose you always feel bad. It's a no-win when that happens."

(I'd posit that it's more of a no-win when you actually, um, don't win.)

By the Numbers:

17,601: The paid attendance at the Phillips Arena, which was um... no.

21: Points by Bobo, on just 10 shots. Also, a career-high for him as a Spur. The points, not the field goal attempts, smart guy.

6: Threes from Patty Thrills, on eight attempts, a season-high for him as well.

0-of-1: The three-point shooting from the Spurs starters (including the league's leading three-point marksman, Marco Belinelli).

11-of-17: The three-point shooting from the Spurs bench (but none from the franchise's all-time leader in threes).

938: Regular season wins from Pop, which tied Red Auerbach for 10th in NBA history. I can't imagine how thrilled he'll be to pass him next Friday.

2,732: Career blocks from Duncan after swatting four more against Atlanta, tying him with Shaq for seventh all-time.

223: How many more blocks Duncan needs to pass David Robinson on the all-time franchise list. Can he get there in a year-and-a-half? It's gonna be close.

6: Rebounds, in 18 minutes, for Nando De Colo. Also for Cory Joseph, in 31 minutes. Meanwhile, Bonner's season-high has been five boards.

16-3: The Spurs' league-best road record. That puppy is gonna get tested pretty the next couple of games.

Sequence of the Game:

15-10 Spurs after a sloppy start for the Hawks, and then Mills hits a corner three, steals a Lou Williams pass and hits another corner three. 21-10 and good night, everybody.

Tweets of the Night:

Tankapalooza 2014 cares not whether "The Slim Reaper," plays or doesn't.

No, because he never was.

Probably not the best tweet when I rage on people for calling the Spurs boring.

Technically, I'm a professional writer/waiter. It doesn't mean that I'm any good at either job.

That doesn't seem like a practical idea.

Not Spurs-related, but this was a real tweet from quasi-friend of mine. She works as a lawyer and makes way more money than me. And she was absolutely not joking in this tweet. I just wanted to point that out.

This one was my favorite.

The "truth in advertising" concept is one of the main reasons "Crazy People" is one of my favorite movies. And I HATE Dudley Moore.

I don't know what this means but it sounds terrifying.

Oh god can you imagine how much worse the Spurs would be if they still had Neal and Blair? /shudders

Never could get into that show. I also never got into Breaking Bad or The Wire. Just, you know, full disclosure.

Okay, I lied, this was my favorite.

Random Observation: You know how in football games the home crowd gets really quiet when their team has the ball, especially in the red zone? That's pretty much how Hawks fans are, the whole time. I think they may be confused.

Your Three Stars:

3. Boris Diaw (31 pts): It never fails, the second I call out a guy, he lights it up the next game and makes me look like a nimrod. Diaw's 21 wasn't just a season-high, but the most he's ever scored in a Spurs jersey, and he even filled it up from three. The plus-27 was nice, as was the 3-of-4 from downtown, but I think I was most impressed by the five rebounds in 22 minutes from the Land Walrus. Anyway, Manu Ginobili sucks and will never, ever score 30 points in a game again, especially at Miami.

2. Patty Mills (18 pts): On the flip side of the coin, I didn't call out Mills per se as much as implore him to score a bunch because of the injuries, and I'm gonna pretend to be Bill Simmons/Skip Bayless for a microsecond and think that he responded just as a personal favor to me. I, I, I, me, me, me. Mills' three-point barrage in the first quarter blew the game open and sapped whatever potential drama the game had. Which was always none, to be clear.

1. Tim Duncan (78 pts): 17-16-2-4 in 27 minutes for Duncan. At 37-years-old. That doesn't seem normal. In a game where the Spurs could've gone into it feeling sorry for themselves, Duncan showed the kind of beneath-the-surface leadership that makes him so beloved by his teammates. Three quick long jumpers, three rebounds and a pair of blocks in the opening minutes signaled to everyone, "We got this, we're fine," and so they were. (Ignore the pair of missed freebies and the two turnovers in that stretch, I've got a narrative going here.)

Next Up: @Miami Heat (31-12), Sunday, Jan. 26: The Spurs return to AmericanAirlines Arena for the first time since that thing happened. I can't imagine a Finals rematch where the two teams will be less interested. It's gonna be a noon start by the Spurs' body clocks and only an hour later for the Heats, a handful of guys will either be beat up or out entirely and really what's the point of trying for either team? What does it prove? What does any of it mean? The Heat couldn't be less interested in their regular season, firmly entrenched as they are in the second seed, and the only "drama," they have is LeBron James taking passive-aggressive shots at Dwyane Wade for being injured all the time. Also they're getting contributions from Michael Beasley and Greg Oden now, because you know, they totally needed more talent on that ball club. I predict the Spurs will lose by 16 points, but they'll probably lose by one in triple-overtime on a Ray Allen three at the buzzer.

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