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Spurs 106, Hawks 104: Preseason Recap

The Spurs beat the Hawks in their first meeting since former assistant coach Mike Budenholzer took over head coaching duties

"I've made a huge mistake"
"I've made a huge mistake"
Kevin C. Cox

The Spurs beat the Hawks 106-104 in a nail-biter to claw their way back to .500 in preseason after beating CSKA Moscow and losing to the Suns and Nuggets. Obviously, preseason win-loss records matter greatly, so you can now rest easy knowing that the Spurs are no longer a losing team.

The Game

Things were close in the first half as the starters struggled to make buckets. Tim Duncan was the sole bright spot, as Parker, Splitter, Leonard and Green failed to make much of an impression on the game early on. The bench came to the rescue with some pretty, pretty ball movement  and an inspired Ginobili, who provided 11 consecutive points between the first and the second quarter to keep the Spurs in it. The De Colo, Ginobili, Belinelli, Diaw, Ayres lineup worked well, but the starters struggled again when they came in to finish the half, as Parker continued to cough the ball up. Going into the break, the Spurs led by 3, 44-41.

Tony came alive in the second half, scoring 14 third quarter points to break the game wide open for the Spurs. The subs managed to maintain the lead until Pop realized it was preseason and sent a lineup of Mills, Nwaelele, Fells, Ayres and Baynes to close the game up. The Hawks, meanwhile, kept their starters in despite the game being meaningless, which was clearly a sign of Mike Budenholzer rebelling against Pop's ways. They tied it up on a Korver three pointer but a three by Nwaelele and a couple of buckets by Baynes were enough for the Spurs to get the win.

The Players

Since this is preseason I'm sure you care less about the game than about how the players looked. So let's do a player by player breakdown.

Tony Parker: Tony is on vacation right now. He doesn't seem really focused, but he is so good that he can turn it on whenever he wants, as his third quarter explosion shows.

Tim Duncan: Duncan is looking great, which bodes well for the Spurs' chances. He is spry and committed and still looks like one of the league's best big men.

Manu Ginobili: Speaking of looking spry, Manu threw down a forceful dunk and connected on two of his four three pointers. Ginobili is looking confident and seems to be clicking with his new running mates.

Tiago Splitter: It was a pretty nondescript performance by Tiago, but that's okay because we know what to expect from him. The two blocked shots were nice, though.

Danny Green: The same applies to Green, who went 1-4 from three in this one. Green is a better shooter than that and has very little to prove at this point.

Kawhi Leonard: I'm a little worried about Leonard because he simply doesn't look comfortable trying to create. But he is so good at attacking the basket on the secondary break and at making himself available on cuts that even if it takes him a little longer than anticipated to become a threat off the dribble, he still should get plenty of points.

Boris Diaw: Diaw barely played in this one but he stuffed the stats sheet (four assists, three boards) and seemed willing to create in the post, like he did for France in Eurobasket.

Marco Belinelli: Marco had his best game as a Spur, finishing with 13 points in nine shots and four rebounds in little over 14 minutes. He moved the ball and looked comfortable sharing the court with Ginobili, which is exactly what I wanted to see.

Matt Bonner: Bonner was perfect from the field on his way to eight points in less than 12 minutes. He also grabbed zero boards and committed several cheap fouls. Soul or no soul, (Freditor's note: no soul), Bonner is still a useful player, but I think he might be the Spurs' sixth big once the season is underway.

Jeff Ayres: Ayres missed all his field goals but contributed four assists. The Spurs' plan to use their bigs to create out of the high post relies on players that can make a read and pass well and Ayres looks like he can do both. Now he just needs to get used to the crazy passes he will receive.

Nando De Colo: De Colo's stat line looks terrible. He went 0-5, pulled down two boards and only got one assist in over 18 minutes of playing time. But he was part of that second quarter lineup that moved the ball beautifully and always made the right decision with the ball. I realize that most fans are sour on Nando at this point, but De Colo is clearly a talented guy. Give him a little more time.

Aron Baynes. Baynesy is the opposite of De Colo in that his stat line might make him look better than he was. Seven of his total 11 points came in the fourth quarter, when the Hawks trimmed down the Spurs lead. Still, Bangers is looking solid, especially on the boards (seven in 18 minutes), and that should be enough to cement a place in the rotation.

Patty Mills: Mills took nine shots in nine minutes because he is Patty Mills. Of all the Spurs' players I think Mills is the most likely to enjoy being out there in games like this one, in which he has the greenest of lights. I should obviously mention that he scored 11 points and was the biggest reason why the Spurs came out on top, of course.

Dan Nwaelele and Courtney Fells: They both looked okay, I guess, but I feel confident saying there is no chance they make the roster. There is nothing special about them at this level and they are both too long in the tooth (29 and 27, respectively) to really have upside. It would still be nice to have them with the Toros, in case someone gets hurt and the Spurs need to offer a ten-day contract.

Random thoughts

  • Cory Joseph was the odd man out this time. I think Cory has cemented his place on the team, so there was no need to have him on the court. Joseph is likely the back up PG in Pop's mind right now and nothing Mills or De Colo did seemed enough to change that.
  • I mentioned this above but Ginobili and Belinelli really seemed to play well off each other. They might be a little undersized, but I think the two playing together at the two and three off the bench could really make sense for the Spurs.
  • The Hawks have a nice little cheap roster in place and could push for the playoffs in the East if a couple of things break right. Millsap and Horford are a nightmare to guard when facing up and Jeff Teague is a quality starting point guard. Coach Bud will have his work cut out for him, but they have enough talent and roster flexibility that they could turn some heads this year.

The Spurs will play their fifth game of the preseason on Sunday against Miami. Surely a win will avenge the loss in the finals and allow us all to move on. Surely.

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