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Spurs finish off Hawks behind Kawhi Leonard’s 31

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs won their 19th-straight game in San Antonio against the Hawks on Monday night with a 107-99 victory. It’s been over 20 years since the Hawks won in the Alamo City on February 15, 1997. That’s completely absurd in the true sense of the word. And I’ll just drop this right here.

The Spurs welcomed back Kawhi Leonard after the club’s lone all-star missed Saturday night’s game against the Golden State Warriors following a hit to the head he suffered in the OKC game as he had to pass the league’s concussion protocol before returning to action.

It was like he didn’t miss any time at all, putting up a 31-5-4 line in 39 minutes of action and basically looked like the MVP candidate he’s been all season. He played all 12 minutes of the first quarter and clearly had no restrictions placed on him.

The first half was all San Antonio. The home team’s defense was excellent and held the Hawks to 43 points on 44% shooting in the first 24 minutes. The Spurs opened up a 15-point lead at the end of the second quarter and it looked like the Spurs would roll to an easy victory over Atlanta.

But turnovers and solid Hawks defense kept the visitors in the game with the Spurs turning it over 13 times in the first half. The Spurs led 54-43 going into the half in what looked like a more lopsided contest.

Atlanta cut the Spurs’ lead to eight going into the final period after winning the third quarter 30-27. Paul Millsap was solid for the Hawks in the third, dropping nine on five shots and playing the entire quarter. Atlanta also took care of the ball, committing zero turnovers in the period.

The final score hints at how competitive the final quarter was and the Hawks but their deficit to just a single point four minutes into the quarter. But a timely Bryn Forbes triple, with an assist from Kawhi, pushed the lead out to four and gave the Spurs a little breathing room.

Let’s give Forbes a little love.

And here’s a buzzer beating jumper from the rookie.

While the game remained competitive until the last four minutes or so, that was the closest that the Hawks would get.

San Antonio closed the game out, opening up an 11-point lead on a Patty Mills jumper with 1:36 to ice the contest.

Your Spurs improve to 52-14 for the season and have tied the Warriors for the best record in the league. They own the tiebreaker with the Warriors, so the Spurs are now in the driver’s seat in terms of homecourt advantage come the real season.

Quick Notes:

  • San Antonio finished with 31 assists on the night, their ninth highest total of the season. They’re 17-0 when tallying 28+ assists in a game. h/t Paul Garcia.
  • The Spurs hold on to the best defensive rating in the NBA at 100.6, a full point per 100 possessions than the Warriors’ 101.7.
  • They retain the fifth best offensive rating at 109.5.
  • That adds up to a NBA second-best net rating of +8.9, trailing the Warriors +11.1. The Rockets are third at +6.4.
  • Kawhi dropped 30+ points for the 24th time this season, because Kawhi.
  • The Spurs hit 16 threes in the game, a season-high. They hit a season-second-best 14 against the Kings on March 8th and seventh-best 12 against the Warriors on Saturday. They’re the best three-point shooting team in the league, and lately they’ve been letting it fly, so to speak.
  • The Spurs turned the ball over a season-high 21 times against Atlanta. They also turned the ball over 18 times against the Warriors on Saturday night. It’s probably nothining but it’s something to keep an eye on against the Blazers on Wednesday.
  • For their part, the good guys forced 16 turnovers from Atlanta
  • San Antonio is officially in the one-seed, owning the tiebreaker (2-0) with the Warriors. Both teams are 52-14, good for a 65-win pace.

Up Next:

The Spurs stay at home and host the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night. Portland is playing for its playoff life as the team sits a game and a half back of the eighth-seeded Nuggets. The Blazers have won five of their last six. The Spurs have won 10 of their last 11.