Going into Monday night's game against the San Antonio Spurs the Atlanta Hawks looked like the longest of long shots. However, the Spurs needed a Hall of Fame performance and a game-winning jump shot from Tim Duncan to escape with a 102-100 win at the AT&T Center.
In recent weeks the Hawks have made a habit out of digging themselves into an early hole and then trying to climb their way out in the second half. That isn't a successful recipe against many teams and in particular against a team like the Spurs. Fortunately for the Hawks, they turned in a solid 48 minute performance that very nearly had them capture an upset victory.
The game's final moments were a perfect snapshot of the game in its entirety. Danny Green connected on a three-pointer with one second remaining on the shot clock to put the Spurs up 94-87 with 2:53 remaining. Atlanta came right back with a dunk from Paul Millsap and a three-pointer from Jeff Teague.
Paul Millsap's three with 17.5 seconds remaining cut the lead to just one at 98-97. Atlanta fouled Manu Ginobli on the next possession and he calmly went to the line and sank both free throws. Atlanta took possession with 15.1 remaining and Mike Budenholzer put the ball in Teague's hands who came around a pick and then stepped back and drained a long three-pointer to tie the game with 4.7 remaining.
That set the stage for Gregg Poppovich and the Spurs who ran an excellent sideline out of bounds set that freed Tim Duncan on a pin down for the go ahead jumper with just 0.4 remaining. Atlanta had one final chance but Millsap's desperation heave from the corner was no good and the Spurs escaped with a victory.
Duncan was the story and was the player that the Hawks had little of an answer for. He finished a game-high 23 points and a season best 21 rebounds. San Antonio out rebounded the Hawks 48-39 with Duncan doing most of the damage.
Boris Diaw added 16 points off the bench while Tony Parker finished with 15 points and seven assists. Marco Belinelli added 13 while Tiago Splitter and Ginobli finished with 11 and 10 points respectively. The Spurs got 46 points from their bench while the Hawks could only muster 21.
Teague saved his best work for the fourth and finished with a team-high 19 points and seven assists. The best news for the Hawks was his 3-4 shooting from three-point range where he has struggled so far this season.
Al Horford added 18 while DeMarre Carroll finished with 17 and eight rebounds. Paul Millsap got off to a slow start offensively but did his best to nullify Duncan on the boards and finished with 15 points and 15 rebounds. Lou Williams finished with 10 points but was 5-14 from the field including 0-6 from three-point range.
There is no place for moral victories in the NBA but if there were this game would have qualified. No doubt there were plenty of positives to be taken away but at some point this Hawks team has to step up and win games like this one. Its no doubt frustrating for everyone involved but if they can learn to bring this type of consistent focus for a full 48 minutes then success will come eventually.