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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Atlanta Hawks

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The Spurs welcome Mike Budenholzer's Hawks to the AT&T Center -- and Tiago Splitter back from injury -- as they look to bounce back from their loss to the Phoenix Suns.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio Spurs vs. Atlanta Hawks

AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
November 5, 2014, 7:30 PM Spurs Time
TV: FSSW, RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI

Along with trying to determine Tim Duncan's half-life and making sense of Kawhi Leonard's giant mitts, the one natural phenomenon that continues to elude scientific NBA minds is the continuous pollination of Spurs basketball minds throughout the league.

One of the most recent products of Popovichian mitosis is the Atlanta Hawks, where former assistant Mike Budenholzer, now in his second year at the helm, has transformed his team into Spurs East. Erler recently previewed the Hawks, touching on many of these points, but suffice it to say that there are more than a few parallels between the two teams.

It's a tiny sample size, but the Hawks are currently first in the league in three-point percentage (47.6%, leading by a huge margin) and assists per game (26). As with San Antonio, the ball zips around and finds the open man with ease, and it's usually a player with few reservations about shooting from distance. It's not just Kyle Korver (questionable for tonight's game) firing away; nearly every player on the roster can stretch their offense to the three-point line, creating plenty of space for big man Al Horford to go to work inside. When both Horford and vet Elton Brand are off the floor, Coach Budenholzer is able to turn to his five-out line-up (which had great success against Indiana last postseason), with Macedodian Pero Antic at center.

Horford is still working his way back into form after missing much of last season with a second torn-pectoral injury. At his best, he's one of the East's top big men, although the natural power forward has been forced to defend out of position for most of his career. His numbers are a bit down at the moment, but he should be pushing 20 and 10 by season's end.

Unfortunately that leads to the one area where Atlanta will surely struggle this year (and the area they neglected to address from last season): the lack of a true center. There's no elite (or even average) shot-blocker on this team, and that missing presence inside will mean they'll continue to have one of the worst rebounding differentials in the league. San Antonio should be able to win the battle in the paint, which should mean less second-chance points for Atlanta and some good looks at the rim for all San Antonio players.

Horford's injuries and the departure of Joe Johnson have helped the development of point guard Jeff Teague, who's become a legitimate leader on the team. He's comfortable with the ball in his hands at the end of games and In some ways, he's utilized as Tony Parker is in the Spurs system. While he's not quite as savvy or efficient with his shooting, Teague is much more athletic and still capable of making big plays.

Speaking of Parker, how about his three-point shooting? Previously dangerous from selective areas on the floor, TP has gone 6 for 6 from downtown through two games, knocking them down with confidence from nearly every spot. It's a notable development for a player who generally picks his spots with the discrimination of -- well -- the kind of person who knows they're being watched by this guy.

While Parker and Duncan are looking good early, Manu's stellar play against Dallas didn't quite carry over against Phoenix, and Kawhi (0-5 from the field in his season debut) will still be getting up to speed after just returning from his eye infection. The team's received solid contributions from role players like Danny Green, Marco Belinelli and Cory Joseph, but the Spurs may take a while longer to really look like themselves, especially in the way they get into the offense and execute.

The Hawks are coming into the AT&T Center on Wednesday after splitting their first two games of the season (a loss at Toronto and a win against the Pacers at home). Both teams will be well-rested tonight, the Hawks having played last on Saturday and the Spurs on Friday. For the Silver and Black, it's the start of a brutal stretch -- five games in seven nights -- that will include bouts against the Rockets (tomorrow), Pelicans, Clippers and Warriors. Thanks, NBA.

Still, San Antonio has won seven straight and 14 of their last 15 against Atlanta and, with significantly more depth and the edge at most positions, I think Spurs West will continue their dominance of Spurs East.

Matchup to watch: Boris Diaw vs. Paul Millsap. The battle inside could set the tone for the game. It'll start with Timmy matching up against Al Horford, but the more entertaining matchup should be that of the two versatile power forwards, Diaw and Millsap. Splitter will also take on Millsap, but I'm not sure how many minutes he'll get, and Diaw presents a more enticing two-way foe for the former Jazz player.

@

Atlanta Hawks (1-1)

San Antonio Spurs (1-1)

November 5, 2014

AT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas

7:30 PM CDT

TV: FSSW

Radio: WOAI 1200AM

Starters

Jeff Teague

PG

Tony Parker

Kyle Korver

SG

Danny Green

Demarre Carroll

SF

Kawhi Leonard

Paul Millsap

PF

Matt Bonner

Al Horford

C

Tim Duncan


For the Hawks' perspective, visit Peach Tree Hoops.

Game prediction: Spurs by 4.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and you can get your San Antonio Spurs tickets from Daniel Farias with Spurs Sports & Entertainment: Tel: 210-444-5607 | dfarias@attcenter.com