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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Atlanta Hawks

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at New Orleans Pelicans Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

After an exhausting double overtime loss to the Pistons on Friday, the Spurs will face Dejounte Murray and the Hawks on the second game of a back-to-back. San Antonio was depleted by injuries in its visit to Detroit and might have lost Doug McDermott in that matchup, so the hope is that some of the players that have been out will be able to return to the lineup. Otherwise, the 11-game losing streak will probably be extended to 12.

The Hawks have had their struggles this year, both internal and external, but they are still firmly in the playoff picture in the East, with a 28-28 record and currently sitting in the eighth spot in the conference. Surely the front office was hoping for more when they traded several picks for Dejounte Murray, but Atlanta has health issues to use as an excuse for an underwhelming first half of the season. If the trade that netted them Saddiq Bey goes through, they will also add some needed depth at forward to go with their star backcourt. They might not be the elite team they set out to become just yet, but they should be a tough opponent for a San Antonio team that almost certainly will be tired and shorthanded.

San Antonio Spurs at Atlanta Hawks

February 11, 2023 | 6:30 PM CT

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

Spurs Injuries: Devin Vassell (knee - OUT), Jeremy Sochan (back - questionable), Tre Jones (foot - questionable), Romeo Langford (thigh-questionable), Charles Bassey (day to day) Doug McDermott (Achilles soreness - questionable)

Hawks Injuries: Aaron Holiday (non-COVID illness - questionable)

What to watch for;

Dejounte Murray, facing the Spurs for the first time. Murray has not been coy about his issues with the Spurs organization after departing via trade last offseason, but has also had nice things to say about his time in San Antonio. Beyond anything that happens on the court, it will be interesting to see how his teammates and Pop react to seeing him around for the first time. As for the actual basketball aspect of the matchup, Murray will likely be tasked with guarding Malaki Branham, who is coming off setting a career-high and has looked good after a rocky start to his rookie season. It will be an interesting battle to watch.

The battle inside. Zach Collins also set a career-high in points against the Pistons, but the questions about his viability as a starting center involve the other end of the court. The Hawks are not the best offensive rebounding team, but they do have athletic bigs who could give Collins troubles on the boards. He might also get attacked on the pick and roll by the guards and the lob threats Atlanta has at its disposal. If Collins sits out the SEGABABA, the Spurs could have a huge issue on their hands. Neither Charles Bassey nor Khem Birch suited up against the Pistons and Gorgui Dieng simply wasn’t effective. Most eyes will be on the backcourts in this one, but if the Hawks get a big edge inside, it’s hard to see San Antonio winning.

Can Devonte’ Graham carry the bench again? The injuries to starters have an effect on the bench as well, as some of the reserves have to move to the starting lineup, which has left San Antonio with little firepower in its second unit. Graham solved that problem against the Pistons by dropping 31 of the Spurs’ 54 bench points, but the team might need more from others if the backup guard doesn’t go off again. Of course, Graham does have the ability to get buckets in a hurry, and if he’s feeling it, a second 30-point game in as many appearances wearing Silver and Black would not be out of the question.

For the Hawks’ fans’ perspective, visit Peachtree Hoops.

PtR’s Game thread 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.