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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Atlanta Hawks

Can the Silver and Black get payback for an early season miscue?

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

NBA teams don’t get much worse than the last-place Hawks. Only the Golden State Warriors have a worse record than Atlanta, and no one has been outscored by more points than the Eastern Conference bottom-dwellers.

Although embarrassing to admit, the San Antonio Spurs are just one of eight teams the Hawks have defeated this season. To make matters worse, that loss came on the road with John Collins sidelined due to suspension.

Fortunately for the good guys, this rematch will take place at home in front of a friendly AT&T Center audience. Unfortunately, Collins won’t be missing for this one, and Jeff Teague could be ready to go after being re-acquired via trade on Thursday.

As if that wasn’t enough, superstar sophomore Trae Young always poses a threat to run rampant on any defense. He already proved he could pick apart San Antonio with 29 points and 13 assists in the previous meeting, and the Silver and Black would do well to keep an eye on the 2019 Rookie of the Year runner-up.

San Antonio Spurs (17-22) versus Atlanta Hawks (9-32)

January 17, 2020 | 7:30 PM CT

Watch: KENS 5 | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: None

Hawks Injuries: Jabari Parker (Shoulder - Out), Alex Len (Back - Day-to-Day), Chandler Parsons (Out - Concussion), Bruno Fernando (Questionable - Personal)

A Helping Hand for DeMar DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan has been spectacular for San Antonio over his past 12 outings, yet the Spurs find themselves playing .500 basketball amid his historic hot streak. While the Silver and Black have only been blown out once over this span, it has become clear the four-time All-Star can’t carry this team by himself.

The good guys have lost by two or fewer possessions in three of their last six losses, and the difference between victory and defeat is a matter of a guy or two making a few shots. That hasn’t happened, and as a result, the Spurs have let DeRozan’s superstar play go to waste.

Anyone could be the guy to step up, but preferably San Antonio’s second-highest-paid player LaMarcus Aldridge would be the one to answer the call. Though his newfangled three-point shooting has added another dynamic to the offense, his 16.7 points per game in these losses is less than you’d expect from your second-leading scorer.

Keeping the Pedal to the Metal

Sometimes the easiest games are the hardest to win. At least, that’s how it feels when the Spurs take on lottery-bound organizations. San Antonio has suffered 22 losses to teams that either missed or are on pace to miss the playoffs since the start of last season.

They added a preventable loss when they played the Hawks earlier in the year, and avoiding another smudge on their already blemished resume would be nice as we approach the grueling 2020 Rodeo Road Trip. No win is a gimme in the NBA, but between Atlanta’s injury and inexperience, our guys have the upper hand in almost every way.

The Silver and Black outrank their upcoming opponent in points, rebounds, assists, and blocks per game, as well as every single shooting percentage based statistic, and points allowed. This shouldn’t be a close contest, and the Spurs would be smart to stay aggressive regardless of the score.

Thawing Out “Ice Trae”

There’s a strong chance Trae Young would legitimately be in the MVP discussion if he wasn’t on one of the league’s worst teams. The second-year standout is the association’s third-leading scorer, fourth-leading dimer, and he’s absolutely box office material.

For all the gaudy stats he tallies night in and night out, the Hawks haven’t quite figure out how to translate his video game numbers into victories. That being said, Atlanta can match anyone when their point guard gets on a roll.

In the 8 wins with Young in the lineup, he nearly averages 35-5-10 on 52-46-81 shooting splits. When they lose, those phenomenal figures fall to 28-5-8 on 42-34-86 shooting splits. Trae Young is going to get his no matter what, but limiting his production is the key to restraining his teammates.

Derrick White and Dejounte Murray will likely draw the assignment of shutting down Lloyd Pierce’s floor general, but considering they’ve played just 23 minutes together this season, I doubt we see this duo operating side by side. Nevertheless, the staggering method Gregg Popovich has implemented with his point guards thus far should theoretically ensure a long night for Trae Young.

For the Hawks fans’ perspective, visit Peach Tree Hoops.

PtR’s Gamethread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.