The streak continues. The Atlanta Hawks entered the night with 16 consecutive road losses against the San Antonio Spurs, but despite a monster rally to make this game extremely competitive, that skid will continue after a 94-92 defeat on Wednesday night.
The game began in ominous fashion for the Hawks, as they simply could not get a shot to fall in the early going. Atlanta shot just 29% from the floor against 61% for the defending champs, and in doing so, the Hawks fell behind by a 12-point margin after the first quarter. In addition, that woeful early shooting continued into much of the second quarter, as Mike Budenholzer's team converted only 11 of their first 40 field goal attempts, including 1 of 7 from the 3-point line.
Fortunately, things would go in a better direction from that point forward. Atlanta stabilized for the remainder of the second quarter, and spurred by DeMarre Carroll, the Hawks closed the half on a 12-5 run to take the lead from a game-high 17 down to 10 at the break.
The third quarter continued the (vast) improvement for the good guys, especially on the defensive end. The Hawks held San Antonio to just 19 points in the period, and that figure included just one field goal for the home team in the final 4 and a half minutes. Still, the deficit remained at six points after 36 minutes, and it would be a tall ask for Atlanta coming down the stretch on the road.
Then, the fourth quarter happened and it appeared for all the world as if the comeback would be completed with the Hawks finally exiting San Antonio with a victory after all these years. Sadly, that wasn't the case.
The Spurs quickly jumped ahead by 12 points after a flurry from Manu Ginobili and Cory Joseph, but from that moment on, it was all Hawks. Mike Scott and Kyle Korver connected on back-to-back threes to slash the deficit in half, and those threes coupled with an explosive performance (and an amazing dunk) from Dennis Schröder led to a 14-3 run to bring the score to a 1-point deficit at 77-76.
From there, the two teams went back and forth with Atlanta unable to snatch the lead, but that finally changed when DeMarre Carroll connected on a pull-up jumper to knot the score at 88-88. Al Horford's 15-footer with 1:15 left in the game finally gave the Hawks the lead outright, but that lead was short-lived after Kyle Korver fouled Ginobili on a three-point attempt and Manu converted all three attempts.
The teams traded empty possessions before Tim Duncan was fouled with 18 seconds remaining, and the future Hall of Famer made only one of two attempts to give San Antonio a two-point lead. Jeff Teague, after a timeout, followed that by securing the "quick two" to tie the game with 13 seconds remaining, but on the other end, disaster struck.
Manu Ginobili quickly attacked the paint, and while he was surrounded by a trio of Hawks, there appeared to be no contact. Predictably, there was an ultra-quick whistle, sending Ginobili to the charity stripe, and after he knocked down two free throws, Atlanta was unable to get a reasonable shot attempt despite nearly 4 seconds on the final trip down th the floor.
For the night, Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll led Atlanta in scoring with 17 points each, and Millsap stuffed the stat sheet with 7 rebounds, 5 steals, 3 assists and 2 blocks. Dennis Schröder was also at the top of his game on this night, adding 9 points in just 8 minutes of playing time, and if that play continues, we could have a legitimate controversy at the backup point guard spot.
Aside from the highly questionable officiating, the key to this game proved to be the lackluster start for Atlanta. The Hawks have made a habit of digging big holes in San Antonio in recent years, and in this one, that proved to be a considerable reason for the final result. Still, this game will likely be remembered for the final play and yet another instance where Hawks fans can cry foul with good reason.