Several seats down the Spurs bench was Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio’s centerpiece of crunch time. The sixth-year forward, well on his way to superstardom — if he isn’t there already — sat for much of the fourth quarter Sunday night, watching San Antonio hold the Hawks at bay. A rare sight, but an understandable one: Leonard had missed the last two games with gastroenteritis and seemed drained.
Moments after Hawks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. nailed a game-tying triple, Leonard entered the game with 10 seconds left in the fourth quarter and momentarily silenced a boisterous Hawks crowd with two free throws. But his potential game-winner, a guarded fadeaway, went in, popped out, made two full, slow revolutions of the basket and rolled out.
So the Spurs and Hawks went into overtime, and Leonard’s second attempt at a buzzer beater — this one to tie the game — slipped away after contact with Dwight Howard sent his layup off the backboard. Lamarcus Aldridge’s tip-in attempt went wide, and Atlanta squeaked by with a 114-112 overtime win.
With the loss, San Antonio drops to 27-7 on the year and 16-3 on the road. Aldridge totaled 27 points and 13 rebounds, and center Pau Gasol finished with 18 points and nine rebounds. Guard Tony Parker added 22 points, and Leonard scored 13. Manu Ginobili chipped in 10 points off the bench.
Hawks forward Paul Millsap tallied game-best 32 points, and Hardaway posted 29 points on six 3s, many of which served to bury the Spurs in overtime. Kyle Korver logged 14 points behind four 3s, and Dennis Schroder had 16 points for Atlanta.
Here’s Leonard’s attempted game-winner:
Leonard’s two free throws in the fourth quarter would have sealed a win for the Spurs, but Hardaway forced overtime with this bomb:
This kid REALLY enjoyed Tim Hardaway Jr.’s clutch game-tying three https://t.co/8k7G3Bqhm7— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 2, 2017
Hardaway wasn’t through. He connected on a pair of 3s within the first two minutes of overtime, and the second sent his Hawks team to a 108-104 lead. Schroder converted on a layup later, but trailing 110-104, Gasol knocked down a jumper. Schroder scored again following Gasol’s basket, but the Spurs clawed to within 112-109 via two free throws each from Gasol and Aldridge.
That’s when Leonard struck again — a pull-up triple knotted it at 112. The Spurs looked in good shape on the other end when Millsap — who played the entire second half — missed a jumper. But Hardaway tracked the offensive rebound, picked up a foul call and knocked down 1 of 2 free throws.
Atlanta then held a 113-112 lead, but Millsap pulled down Hardaway’s miss on the second attempt, leading to Schroder also hitting 1 of 2 free throws — setting up Leonard’s game-winning attempt on the other end.
But Leonard’s tough layup spun off the backboard, and the Spurs suffered just their third road loss on the season.
Regulation time looked a lot like the overtime session. After a 1-for-7 start shooting, the Hawks heated back up and trailed just 27-25 after the first frame.
Malcolm Delaney + buzzer beaters= pic.twitter.com/n66cTnjxmy— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) January 1, 2017
Atlanta took a lead as large as 39-34 in the second before Spurs guard Danny Green hit a 3...
... and Aldridge backed down and converted on a lay-in. Aldridge then splashed two of his patented turnaround jumpers for a 43-42 Spurs lead.
Following a technical foul assessed to Hawks center Dwight Howard, Leonard hit the resulting free throw, and San Antonio took a 46-44 lead into the intermission.
But that’s when Atlanta started feeding Millsap the ball, again and again. What ended as a 32-point game from Millsap saw its defining stages in the third, when the veteran forward finished an and-1 after drawing a reach-in foul on Leonard.
His onslaught was put on pause, though, when the Spurs rattled off a 9-0 run via three Manu Ginobili free throws and a layup, a David Lee flush and another jumper from Aldridge. The quick spurt widened San Antonio’s lead to 68-59.
But Millsap hit a pair of triples, and tied the game at 75 just minutes into the fourth on a fadeaway and two free throws. Millsap and his thick, 6-8 frame bullied Lee around the basket, enough to prompt Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to send in Aldridge.
But Millsap cared not, later hitting a corner 3, and the Hawks seized a 84-82 lead. Hardaway capped a 9-0 Hawks run when threw down a leak-out dunk with 7:50 remaining.
The basket trading began soon after. Spurs guard Tony Parker somehow drilled a fadeaway jumper — reminiscent of his fadeaway 3-ball in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals — to tie it at 84-all. Parker then hit a signature floater, and Gasol hit a jumper, amounting to a 6-0 Spurs run, vaulting them to an 88-84 lead with 6:18 left.
Following a triple from Green and another jumper from Aldridge, the Spurs grabbed a 98-93 lead with 2:11 to go.
But from there, Millsap pulled Atlanta within 98-97 with a layup, setting up the end of the game fireworks.
• The loss was San Antonio’s first overtime game this season.
• The last time the Spurs lost a game on New Year’s Day? 2014, when the Spurs won their fifth championship.
• Hardaway was previously in the Spurs organization, playing three games with the Austin Spurs a season ago.
• Parker scored a season-high 22 points.
• Leonard’s 13 points gave him 66 straight games scoring in double figures, the longest streak by a Spur since 2007.
San Antonio will host Toronto 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.