The San Antonio Spurs fought hard on a SEGABABA but once again came up short on their nine-game homestand, losing 134-129 in 2OT to the Atlanta Hawks. After a poor first quarter, the Spurs spent the rest of their game scratching and clawing their way back, nearly willing themselves to victory, but they could never quite get over the hump in regulation before Trae Young came alive in the overtimes to win the game for the Hawks.
DeMar DeRozan had 36 points for the Spurs, and Derrick White scored a regular season career-high 29 points, including a career-high 7 made threes. Bogdan Bogdanovic, Clint Capela and Young each scored 28 points apiece.
- Gregg Popovich said before the game that he expects Gorgui Dieng to miss at least a week with the sprained shoulder he suffered in his Spurs debut against Kings. It’s highly unfortunate since he figures to fit right in and bring a highly needed skillset to the team, but if a week is all he misses, just consider it could have been much worse.
- As they spend more time together, the starting unit of Dejounte Murray, White, Keldon Johnson, DeRozan, and Jakob Poeltl is starting to show better continuity, chemistry, and ball movement. They spotted the team a 19-15 lead early, but in a reverse of usual trends, the bench unit struggled out of the gate, allowing a 17-3 run to close the first quarter with stagnant offense and poor shot selection. Gay scored the bench’s only point of the quarter on a free throw, and a bench player didn’t hit a field goal until a Gay dunk in transition two minutes into the second quarter. Before that, he, Patty Mills, Devin Vassell and Drew Eubanks had shot a combined 0-10.
- White had one of his best halves this season, scoring 14 points, including hitting two straight threes to open second quarter (and 4-5 in the half), and combined with the aforementioned Gay dunk helped the Spurs start the second quarter on an 8-0 run. They never regained the lead in the quarter, but he and Dejounte Murray helped keep it reasonably close considering the team’s lackadaisical energy and went into halftime only down 54-48. It felt like it could have been more.
- The Spurs’ biggest issue on defense in the first half was points in paint, where they were outscored 32-16. Perhaps to no one’s surprise, the biggest culprit in that discrepancy was Capela, who had 18 points and 7 rebounds in the half, with 4 of those of the offensive variety. He also got to the line early, and of course a career 55% FT shooter would go 6-6 because that’s what opponents do to the Spurs. He would go on to hit 10-10 on the night. Meanwhile, the Spurs spent most of their time settling for jumpers.
- Nate McMillan learned in the second quarter how a successful Coach’s Challenge can still backfire. With the Hawks up 8 midway through and carrying all the momentum, Bogdan Bogdanovic tipped a pass that grazed Johnson’s fingers on the way out of bounds, and the refs called Spurs ball. Bogdan went crazy, triggering his coach to challenge the call. He was obviously successful, but the Spurs instantly stole it back for a Vassell and-1. IMO, there has to be a legitimately good excuse to use your Challenge in the first half, such as saving a key player from foul trouble, or if your team is approaching an insurmountable hole and it’s desperation time. This was not either of those situations.
- The Hawks hit their first 4 threes of second half to get up 66-55, but White remained the hot hand with two more threes to get the Spurs back in it. They kept chipping away and did well enough to recover and remain close to the Hawks throughout the third quarter but could never quite get the type of “spark” play that gets the energy flowing and triggers a run. Plus, anytime it looked like maybe they did (a Vassell three, and DeRozan and-1 that may or may not have been legit, etc.), the Hawks always had an answer and maintained an 84-80 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
- This is the second SEGABABA in a row that Gregg Popovich has uncharacteristically stuck to nine-man rotation despite his team looking tired. Granted, they were missing a few key contributors off the bench in Lonnie Walker, Dieng and even Trey Lyles, but it’s not hard to imagine even a few minutes from Luka Samanic would have been helpful and provided a little relief. The bench finished the night outscored 29-41 by their Hawks counterparts on 10-34 shooting. 18 of those points belonged to Gay.
- The Spurs chipped and chipped and chipped at the Hawks lead, getting within a point several times. Fourth Quarter DeMar kept doing his thing on offense, but they could never get over the hump as the Hawks answered every time. They looked done as they were down four with Gay missing a three with 24 second left, but White swiped the ball from Kevin Huerter as he nonchalantly took the ball up the court, presumably waiting for a foul, and Murray got an and-1 to get the Spurs within a point with 15 seconds left. Young missed one of two free throws, DeRozan hit a jumper with 2.8 left, and Young just missed a floater for the Spurs to improbably force overtime.
- Both teams looked gassed in OT. The Spurs finally got their first lead since the first quarter to start OT, but Young finally found his shot, scoring 7 in the period and forcing the Spurs to again play catch-up. Gay tied things up with a three with just under a minute left, and the Spurs played excellent defense to make Bogdanovic’s buzzer-beater late to force another OT. Young, who was held under control for most of the night, kept scoring, again spotting the Hawks a 6-point lead. A Gay three got it within one with 33 sec left, but Danilo Gallinari hit a three on the ensuing possession to seal the deal.
- I’m as big of a Patty Mills fan as anyone and want him to be a Spur for life, but I don’t get Pop playing him for nearly the entirety of crunch time and both overtimes considering he just shot 1-10 for the night and was constantly getting roasted on defense by Young. I do get that Keldon Johnson did not have a good game either with just 5 points, and there’s not really a better alternative with Walker out, but I just don’t get why Mills was out there that whole time with Young going off on him. End of rant.
For the Hawks fans’ perspective, visit Peach Tree Hoops.
The return to the AT&T Center to continue their homestand on Saturday against the Indiana Pacers. Tipoff will be at 8:00 PM CT on Bally Sports Southwest (p.k.a. Fox Sports Southwest).