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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Atlanta Hawks

Familiar faces return to San Antonio as home stand ends

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

After two straight overtime losses, the Spurs will look to bounce back on the last game of their home stand. The Silver and Black have gone 2-3 in their last 5, as they look to split this stretch of games at the AT&T Center. Their most recent loss came at the hands of a shorthanded Grizzlies squad 126-120.

This game will bring former Spurs All-Star Dejounte Murray back to San Antonio for the first time since he was traded last offseason. It hasn’t been smooth sailing for Murray with his new team. The fit with Hawks superstar Trae Young has taken time, and his averages of 20.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 6 assists are all lower than his numbers last year. The Hawks have struggled to find their way in a tough Eastern Conference, and sit at 8th with a 35-35 record.

In the Spurs last game against the Hawks came on February 11th, where they lost 125-106. Young led the way for the Hawks, going for 24 points and 17 assists. Keldon Johnson put up 25, with Jeremy Sochan adding in 18, 9 and 5. The Spurs will be without Sochan, who left their last contest with a knee issue. He joins an ever growing injury report for the Silver and Black. The Spurs will once again rely on a limited roster to defend their home court.

San Antonio Spurs (18-52) vs. Atlanta Hawks (35-35)

March 19, 2023 | 3 p.m. CT

Watch: BSSW | Listen: WOAI/KXTN

Spurs injuries: Khem Birch – Out (knee), Keita Bates-Diop – Doubtful (achilles), Charles Bassey – Out (knee), Julian Champagnie – Out (G-League two-way), Zach Collins – Questionable (bicep), Devonte Graham – Out (quad), Doug McDermott – Questionable (hip), Jeremy Sochan – Out (knee)

Hawks injuries: Trent Forrest – Out (G-League two-way), Jalen Johnson – Questionable (Hamstring), Tyrese Martin – Out (G-League assignment), Donovan Williams – Out (G-League two-way), Trae Young – Questionable (knee)

What to watch for

How will Dejounte Murray be received?

While Murray never publicly requested a trade, his comments since being traded from San Antonio showed that he was not happy with the Spurs. He’s thrown shade at the front office and system on social media and in interviews. He’s even tussled with Spurs fans on social media.

How will Spurs fans receive him in his return to the AT&T Center? He was an all-star last year, and one of the Spurs more recent developmental success stories. At the same time, his comments post-trade have likely not done him any favors. It would not be surprising to see Murray come back with a chip on his shoulder. He didn’t play spectacular in his last outing against the Silver and Black, putting up 18 points and 7 rebounds on 8-18 shooting. Certainly he will look to have a better performance in front of his former home crowd.

Can they keep up the hot shooting?

The Spurs have been scorching the nets in their last three games. They set a franchise record for three-point makes against the Magic with 22, then hit 15 and 20 against the Mavericks and Grizzlies. They are shooting 57-127 (45%) over those three games, compared to the 34% they have shot over the course of the season.

They’ve done it with incomplete teams as well. No Doug McDermott, and they still get 20 threes. With the potential to be missing McDermott, Devonte Graham and Zach Collins, they will have to do it without key shooters again. Will they get enough shooting to keep up with the up and down, deep shooting style of the Hawks? In order to stay in the game, they may need to keep up with the shooting of Young, DeAndre Hunter and Bogdan Bogdanović.

Who plays center?

No Zach Collins and no Charles Bassey means San Antonio will be without their starting and backup centers. Sandro Mamukelashvili and Dominick Barlow have filled in for Bassey while he’s been out. Gorgui Dieng got some run in their last game against the Grizzlies. It seems that these three would rotate in and out for San Antonio, but that takes away from their forward depth as well.

Mamu has brought an offensive spark, and has worked hard to carve out a role for himself. He had 14 points in 23 minutes agains the Grizzlies. Barlow has looked strong on the defensive end, while showing flashes of his athleticism and mid-range shooting on offense. This is a chance for the Spurs to get a look at what they have in two of their young bigs in extended minutes.