Spurs 95 Hawks 89

Boxscore

Gameflow

Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 88.5 1.01 50.6 14.3 9.8 11.3
SA 88.5 1.07 50.6 19.0 39.5 19.2

Let's start with the positives as I think there were some last night. Going semi-chronologically...

  • Al Horford's defensive performance in the first-half. He did a creditable job on Tim Duncan, didn't commit a foul (which is more important than it really should be due to a certain company policy), blocked three shots, and, most impressively to me, twice, when caught on a switch guarding Tony Parker, Horford did not let Parker get past him and create offense for either himself or a Spur teammate.
  • If I'm going to give Joe Johnson grief* on the nights he struggles, I must give him credit on the nights he's exceptional. He was exceptional last night. 29 points on just 20 shots, 6 assists against just 2 turnovers, 2 steals, and 2 blocks.
  • Acie Law IV played an excellent (Grading a curve? Sure, but this guy needs to catch a break.) 2nd quarter and wasn't bad in his brief second half appearance. That he made an appearance in the second half is probably achievement enough to be noted.
  • Flip Murray played very well on both ends of the court. 17 points on 10 shots. 3 assists against a single turnover. 4 steals and 2 blocks and a few more deflections.

*Said grief stems more from the franchise investing two first-round draft picks and a max contract to build around the fourth-best playeron a legitimately good team thus seriously limiting their potential even before accounting for Billy Knight completely screwed up the 2003 and 2005 drafts and various free agent blunders.

Now, as one would expect when talking about a loss, there's a flip side to that coin.

  • Al Horford really struggled to make positive plays when he caught the ball with his back to the basket when guarded by either Duncan or Fabricio Oberto. Each of Al's three traveling violations were legit calls. This are of his game is a work in progress probably due in part to him receiving the ball in the post with his back to the basket about eight times a week.
  • Speaking of someone who's limited because he's never been given the opportunity to develop his post-up game to the degree necessary even though he's in his fifth year in the league and has conclusively proven to be a terrible jump shooter: Josh Smith had another bad game. I'm not entirely clear why, on a night when his shot selection wasn't especially poor* he played just 24 minutes whereas the night before in Houston he took bad shots regularly and constantly and played 35 minutes but, as has well been established, I'm neither the coach nor one who understands the inner-workings of  his mind very well.
  • Smith couldn't even demonstrate team-leading selfish petulance last night. Horford and Mike Bibby win that particular self-destructive race for their concurrent technical fouls earned  for arguing a Horford personal foul that gave San Antonio nothing more than a side out-of-bounds with the Hawks down 3 with 3:27 left in the game. Manu Ginobili converted both free thows. Tim Duncan made a basket on the San Antonio possession and the two Hawks had turned a two-possession game into a three-possession game.
  • Even though Acie Law and Flip Murray both played well last night, Law still played much better without Murray on the floor.
Min +/-
Law & Murray 12:06 +4
Law w/o Murray 3:55 +7
Murray w/o Law 13:54 -1
  • The Hawks' defensive rebounding is degenerating from poor to laughably bad.
  • Watching Gregg Popovich get quality minutes from both Matt Bonner (the ginger Horry?) and rookie point guard George Hill provided a glimpse at how the other half of fandom gets to live. Not that the average amount of purposeful ball- and player-movement in a San Antonio offensive possession doesn't engender a hideous amount of jealousy on its own.

*I've got him with just one jump shot attempted though his attempted spin move in the post which ended up with him behind the backboard attempting a lean-back scoop shot then complaining that a foul wasn't called rather than getting back on defense immediately made enough of an impression to inspire the lead-in to the bullet to which this note refers.

Bibby on his technical:

"I didn't really say anything. If saying 'Come on, man,' deserves a tech, then I deserved the tech. I've heard a lot worse get told to people and (they've) not got a tech.''

Horford on his technical:

"I said 'What happened?' to Mike because I didn't know what was going on. You've got a tight game going on - a great game - and you're going to blow it up doing that?''

I obviously don't know what either player said, but Horford leaves unmentioned that he began pulling faces the moment he was whistled for the foul.

Joe Johnson's assessment of the game does nothing to engender confidence:

"They set the tempo early and made it clear that they were going to go after every loose ball. They played like they wanted this game. And we’re running out there with no energy, like we don’t even want to be out there.”

That's just super. Had he included the difference in talent and coaching between the two teams he'd have hit the Spurs > Hawks trifecta.

Woodson's account of the pre-game is the true, bang-your-head-against-the-wall quote of the night:

“One of the things we talked about at our pregame meeting was that we had to come out and rebound against this team, or it would be a long night. We have to have all five guys rebounding. That’s the only way we have a legitimate shot at winning.”

Once more...

Team OR% DR%
ATL 9.8 60.5
SA 39.5 90.2

In other breaking it's-the-players'-fault news:

“We’ve got to be mentally tougher in terms of doing the things we’re supposed to do. Because when I can watch film and we come out of a timeout and don’t execute the things we’ve been taught to do, I know we’ve had some slippage.”

For what it's worth, Gregg Popovich's assessment of the game differs from Joe Johnson's:

"Both teams were really dragging, neither were really sharp."

Charley Rosen breaks the game down almost exclusively from the San Antonio perspective. His one real note regarding the Hawks agrees with my own take on the technical fouls, so I'll quote it.

Even when the Hawks made their late-game move, the Spurs never lost their poise. The same cannot be said about the young Hawks: On one damaging sequence with the Spurs margin once again reduced to three points, Horford and Mike Bibby barked too loudly at the refs over a foul that Horford had clearly committed and were assessed technical fouls. Ginobili calmly bagged both freebies — and the Hawks final rallies were always two critical points short.

Both Rosen and Kelly Dwyer mention that Bruce Bowen is not what he once was defensively. True, but credit to Bowen for blowing up the play the Hawks attempted to run out of a timeout with 32 seconds left. Bowen bothered Joe Johnson when Johnson received the ball, forced him away from the basket, and forced Johnson to pick up his dribble and pass the ball to Flip Murray. Murray did well to get to the rim but couldn't finish in the presence of Tim Duncan. The Spurs made their free throws and the game was over.

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