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San Antonio vs. Atlanta, Final Score: Spurs exorcise comeback demons in second half, beat Hawks 126-118

A tale of two-hot shooting halves ended with a rare exhibition of two-way dominance by San Antonio

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at San Antonio Spurs
A resurgent Devin Vassell brilliantly led a third-quarter turnaround to overcome and put away the Hawks
Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

In a chaotic and frentic game resembling a Sweet Sixteen tournament matchup, San Antonio compiled a 16-0 run with a Hawks’ scoring drought that spanned five minutes of the fourth quarter. Atlanta lost a very winnable game in a very motivated Dejounte Murray’s return back home. The Spurs held the Hawks to 35 second half points — less than Atlanta scored in either of the first two quarters.

Both teams engaged in “everything you can do, I can do better” mini-game in a 74-point first quarter that saw the team’s top players take their star turn. Atlanta, behind scorched earth shooting efforts from AJ Griffin, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and of course, Murray, pulled away in the second period with a 43-point detonation that resulted in 60% team shooting along with 100% free throw percentage.

As if shot out of a cannon (or more likely woken up by an exasperated Pop), Vassell and Johnson took turns hitting double digits from a multitude of spots all over the AT&T Center court eliminating nearly all of the 22-point deficit for the bulk of the third where Atlanta left it up three. Tre Jones started the finishing onslaught in the fourth, while Keldon Johnson and Zach Collins polished it off in the gutty Spurs win.

Not to be outdone by Atlant’s collective bucket-getting first half exhibition this afternoon, San Antonio benefitted from a splendid shooting performance by the duo of Devin Vassell (29 points - including a 10-11 start - and 3 steals) and Johnson (29 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 assists) along with a gritty Collins (19 points, 3 steals, and 2 blocks), while Atlanta was paced by seven players with double figures scoring.

Murray (22 points, 8 assists, and 6 rebounds) was bolstered by Onyeka Okongwu (17 points and 7 rebounds) and Griffin’s (15 points and 7 rebounds) contributions off the bench to offset somewhat of an off-night for Trae Young (9 points and 6 assists).


  • My favorite memory of Dejounte Murray: After nabbing a steal and a transition dunk, James Harden attempted to intimidate Murray by a) shoving the young guard out of the way and then b) using the ball to try to push him away, and all Dejounte did was point at Harden’s (career) futility. There’s also the also hairdo from earlier in his career.
  • The two-part Ring of the Rowel series entries spanning the 2005 title run may be the finest work of the production team so far. Tears galore.
  • My favorite (while distracted) NCAA tournament player to watch: Jarace Walker (F, Houston). Least favorite to watch (in terms of ‘would look good on the Spurs’: Zach Edey.
  • During one particular first half possession, one could trace the dots on a ‘FIVE’ dice for where all of the Atlanta players were at in the halfcourt.
  • A nice and easy read on on how the Spurs - particularly Bruce Bowen - took a shot, the corner three, and weaponized it into astounding success.
  • De’Andre Hunter has a nice looking stroke - he knocked down a trio of jumpers in the first period for the Hawks.
  • Jeremy Sochan > peak John Collins.
  • Malaki’s Moments: His form on the catch-and-shoot is pure.
  • The difference in tonight’s game might ultimately be the 50/50 balls that Atanta’s frontline found themselves claiming that led to seocnd-chance points.
  • Sequence of the Game #1: Late in the opening frame, Sandro Mamukelashvili kept a loose ball alive and then back-tapped to a waiting Julian Champagnie for a straightaway three.
  • Clinching Sequence of the Game #2: As part of the fourth quarter comeback completion, Zach Collins erased a Murray attempt at the rim, and Johnson took it on a coast-to-coast expedition for a lay-up where he got hit in the head. After a Vassell steal, Collins powered through the middle of the paint for a soft hook to put the Spurs up ten.
  • Devin’s Deeds: This is the best his shooting stroke has looked since his return.
  • Mamu Tres: 1) There was the above backtap to extend a possession. 2) Then he found a cutting Romeo Langford with a bounce pass for a lay-up that would make any coach proud, and 3) then there’s the shooting stroke particularly from beyond the break, but more importantly, a stream of expletives shot out of his mouth when he missed a potential three point opportunity. #competitiveness
  • Murray stole an outlet pass and scored in transition and then drove in for another score (both over Collins) on the game’s first points. Vassell countered with two feathery buckets of his own. The teams stayed within one possession of each other until a Bogdanovic three briefly put Atlanta up four. The Hawks, led by Bogdanovic, caught fire from behind the arc to push ahead. A pair of Langford buckets nicked into the deficit, but Atlanta left the quarter up 40-34.
  • The teams again traded baskets to start the second quarter with the difference being Atlanta’s higher shot count from three and at the stripe. The Hawks hit the 50 point mark after only 15 minutes of game action, which can’t be good. Buckets by Vassell and Johnson brought San Antonio to within a touchdown. A Champagnie corner three brought an end to a flurry of Atlanta makes, led by Griffin’s hot shooting. Unfortunately, the Hawks surpassed the 70-point mark with 3+ minutes to spare. Champagnie’s transition dunk was one of the few highlights from a forgettable quarter where the visitors managed to EXCEED their first quarter output to make it 83-61.
  • A string of jumpers, including a pull-up 25’ three, by Vassell was part of an encouraging 10-2 run start to the third for the Spurs. Clint Capela and Collins feasted in the paint to keep the Hawks out front. A fadeaway three from Vassell, reminiscent of his hero Kobe Bryant, helped San Antonio close within eight. A pair of Johnson threes nudged and a Champagnie sidestep three closed the Spurs within one. Though they got within one possession on several occasions, a Young runner made it 103-100 Hawks heading into the fourth.
  • Murray bullied his defender Tre Jones for two field goals to start the fourth for Atlanta, while Vassell soared over Murray for an acrobatic layup. The teams struggled to dent the scorebook over several minutes allowing the Hawks to maintain some distance.
  • A Collins jumper, a Johnson lay-up in transition (where he was visibly pained from a shot to the midsection), and a Blake Wesley driving lay-in put San Antonio up one, and Atlanta’s shooting ability abandoned them for the rest of the stanza. A Wesley pull-up made it 118-114. After a brief wrestling match between Collins and Hunter, Collins swished two freebies. Collins jumper and tip-back of a Jones miss ended the Hawks fourth-quarter shooting misery where Capela’s lay-up was the only one seemingly in eons.

For the Hawks fan’s perspective, please visit Peachtree Hoops.

San Antonio starts a four-game road trip with Brandon Ingram and the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night at 7:00 PM CDT.