The Spurs had their best game of the season on Friday in Atlanta, looking like world-beaters en route to a 125-114 win over the Hawks. The final score truly doesn’t do the Silver and Black justice, as they led by as many as 42 points and never trailed in what was an exhibition of pure dominance.
Early on, there was little evidence that this game was going to be as lopsided as it ended up being. Both teams looked a little sloppy in the first few possessions, with the Spurs making shots but not going on crazy runs. The starters did a good job of containing Trae Young (even if it meant surrendering some close baskets to Clint Capela) and were hitting their jumpers. But they didn’t exactly blitz the Hawks. DeMar DeRozan and the bench unit kept the offense going, but Young heated up for a while and kept Atlanta within striking distance despite a poor performance on both ends by the home team. San Antonio led by seven after the first quarter, which seemed about right.
A couple of three-pointers by Patty Mills after the Hawks cut the lead to three to start the second period proved to be a harbinger of things to come. The Spurs played some of their most inspired basketball of the season over a stretch of just a few minutes, as a lineup that included Mills and Rudy Gay alongside Derrick White, Dejounte Murray and Jakob Poeltl started a run that would continue throughout the period. The defense tightened up on Young without leaving shooters open for long while the three-pointers kept falling on the other end. Atlanta had no one else who could create once Young was reined in while the Spurs had DeRozan ready to continue the onslaught. It was total domination on both ends and it essentially ended the game at the half, as San Antonio led by 29.
There would be no comeback attempt in the second half. The Hawks, missing Bogdan Bogdanovic, didn’t have the firepower to mount one and the Spurs were too sharp to allow it. The Silver and Black didn’t play down to their opponent’s level or made untimely mistakes. There was always an answer when Atlanta got a bucket and opportunistic plays extended the lead when the home team struggled. The Spurs led 42 points at the beginning of the fourth and cruised to victory, with the final period entirely devoted to garbage time. The Hawks managed to make the final score less embarrassing once both teams emptied their benches, but the win was never in jeopardy.
- The two MVPs of the night were DeMar DeRozan on offense and Jakob Poeltl on defense. DeRozan was aggressive from the start, logging 22 first-half points to give the Spurs a bucket every time they needed one. Poeltl protected the rim extremely well while also being active as a screener on the other end. It’s probably a good idea to keep those two together in the starting lineup.
- Derrick White and Dejounte Murray once again started together and showed why they could be a scary combo going forward. The outside shots were falling for both, which makes everything much easier for everyone, but they also did a great job clamping down on defense. With those two harassing ball handlers and Poeltl patrolling the paint, the starting unit could be a nightmare for opposing offenses.
- Keldon Johnson had his best game in a while, dropping 20 points. His shot was on and he finished well inside on offense while also doing a good job of helping a recovering well on defense. He didn’t have many rebounds, but with the team not missing many shots and his teammates picking up the slack on the defensive end, he didn’t need to. Overall, a good performance for a guy who needed to bounce back.
- The starters did most of the damage on this one, but as always, Rudy Gay and Patty Mills helped out. Gay was not feeling it on offense (2-for-10 from the field) but did a little bit of everything while Patty’s long range bombs helped start the run that won the game.
- It looks like there might be some intrigue at the backup small forward spot. Lonnie Walker IV got the nod early on, but with DeRozan next to him his role remained the same as it was when he was starting. Then Devin Vassell got some minutes in the third quarter and looked more comfortable as a 3-and-D option. Walker was the only rotation player to be on the court for the entirety of the fourth quarter, but his work as first option in garbage time wasn’t exactly great. One of those two will not be getting many minutes going forward unless there’s an injury, and Lonnie did himself no favors on Friday. We’ll see what happens next.
- The Hawks desperately need another initiator. With Bogdanovic out, Young is forced to do too much on offense. At this point Danillo Gallinari is not a shot creator and John Collins will likely always be a finisher. Once they get everyone back (Rajon Rondo, De’Andre Hunter and Kris Dunn) they could be a lot of fun to watch.
Next game: @ Hornets on Sunday
The Spurs will play the second of seven straight road games when they visit Charlotte on Sunday. LaMelo Ball has been a revelation for a Hornets franchise looking for a savior, so it will be interesting to see if White and Murray can contain him.