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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Atlanta Hawks

The Spurs will try to snap a 12-game losing streak against Dejounte Murray’s and Patty Mills’ Hawks.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at San Antonio Spurs Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs desperately need a win. They’ve lost 12 straight and adversity is clearly starting to affect a young team that seemed to have play-in aspirations before the season started. At this point, it would take a huge turnaround for San Antonio to be out of the basement in the West in the near future, but even a single victory could bring more life to a group of players who have been on the wrong end of beatdowns a little too often lately.

The task won’t be easy. The Hawks have been underwhelming so far, sitting at 10th in the East with a negative record, but they have talent on their roster. The Trae Young-Dejounte Murray backcourt duo has not delivered immediate success, but it’s still fearsome. They have shooting at the wing and athleticism inside. Quin Snyder is a good coach. On paper, they are better than their record would suggest. It will be on the young Spurs to pounce on the road-weary Hawks to prevent them from delivering loss No. 13 in a row.

Atlanta Hawks (8-9) at San Antonio Spurs (3-14)

November 30th, 2023 | 7:00 PM CT

Watch: Bally Sports Southwest|Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: Victor Wembanyama - Questionable (Hip), Jeremy Sochan - Probable (Knee)

Hawks Injuries: Jalen Johnson - Out (Wrist), Mouhamed Gueye - Out (Back), Kobe Bufkin - Out (Thumb)

What to watch for:

Can the Spurs keep pace on offense?

The Spurs and the Hawks have a lot in common. They rank 27th and 25th in the league in defensive rating, respectively. Both rebound poorly on the defensive end and allow points off turnovers and in the paint. They are not good at preventing threes. Getting stops is not what characterizes either squad. The main difference between the two is that while San Antonio is terrible at both ends, the Hawks can actually score at an elite level, ranking fifth in the league in offensive rating.

Atlanta put points on the board. They have the pieces to do it, as they have proved. The question is, can the Spurs keep up? We’ve seen the Silver and Black go through long droughts often this season. Those are survivable against a bad offensive team that won’t take advantage. Against the Hawks, they could be the difference between a close game and a blowout. It will be especially important to not make things easy for the visitors by not turning the ball over and running back in transition.

The Wembanyama at center minutes could be key

Trae Young is a bad matchup for the Spurs because he’s exactly the type of player who can absolutely dismantle a drop defensive scheme when he’s feeling it. He can pull up from three or hit floaters if the big man stays back and he can drive past a slow-footed center that tries to play at the level of the screen or switch. Zach Collins is likely going to have a tough time guarding pick-and-rolls. So will Charles Bassey. That leaves Victor Wembanyama as the best bet to be able to contest those pull-ups while also recovering on drives.

The Spurs could really struggle on the defensive glass with Wemby at center, especially against a team with good offensive rebounders, but he could also have an advantage on the other end. If Clint Capela and Onyeka Okongu have to step outside to guard him, the paint could be wide open for some Keldon Johnson drives. In general, it seems like giving Wembanyama more minutes at center is both good for him and the team, but in this matchup in particular those minutes could have a huge impact on the outcome of the game. Hopefully his hip injury is minor and he will be able to suit up on Thursday.

Keeping Dejounte Murray cold would help a lot

With Snyder in charge, Dejounte Murary is taking more threes than ever and is hitting them at a career-high rate, converting 37 percent of them. In the past three games, though, he had a 0-for-6 night and a 1-for-6 night from beyond the arc. He’s averaged just 10 points per game in that short stretch while shooting 27 percent from the floor overall. As Spurs fans know, Murray does other things on both ends to help even when he’s not scoring, but making sure he doesn’t break out of his mini-slump would go a long way toward defanging the Hawks’ offense. Whoever defends him needs to contest his outside looks and prevent him from getting to his spots inside the arc.

In his last outing, against the Cavaliers, Murray had more shots than points despite shooting the long ball well and logged more turnovers than assists. It’s unlikely the Spurs’ defense will be able to force him into that bad of a night, but that’s fine. The goal should be preventing him from going off. Will the fans boo and, as Pop put it, “poke the bear”? Maybe. But Murray and an entire Hawks team that has underperformed this year should already have plenty of motivation to come out swinging. The Spurs will have to be focused from the get-go to at least try to limit the impact of their former All-Star or they could be in for a long night.