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Spurs vs Hawks preview: Can Budenholzer (finally) top Popovich?

The Hawks host the Spurs on Saturday, and the coaching match-up takes center stage.

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Budenholzer can't beat Gregg Popovich.

The above statement is, of course, preposterous. However, Budenholzer has yet to dethrone his coaching mentor when it comes to results on the floor, as the Atlanta Hawks are 0-5 against the San Antonio Spurs since Budenholver arrived in Georgia.

That is the backdrop for Saturday night's game at Philips Arena, as Budenholzer and the Hawks aim for a bounce-back win. Atlanta fell short against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night, though it was the second game of a back-to-back, and things don't exactly get easier when the second-best team in the NBA comes to town.

San Antonio is doing things a bit differently this season, leaving their mark on the league on the defensive end. The Spurs are playing slower and more deliberately offensively, but having the best defense in the NBA helps when taking that approach, and Popovich appears focused on integrating LaMarcus Aldridge with Tim Duncan and the rest of an aging cast of characters.

Still, the Spurs remain quite talented, and Kawhi Leonard is a top-10 player in the league at this juncture. Thabo Sefolosha and Kent Bazemore will certainly have their hands full with Leonard throughout the evening, while the undersized frontcourt will be tested by the sheer bulk of the Aldridge-Tim Duncan combination. It will be interesting to see how San Antonio approaches this game on the second game of a back-to-back that includes travel, but provided they are at near full-strength, the Hawks face an uphill battle, even in their own building.

At some point, the story of "student vs. teacher" will subside as Mike Budenholzer establishes a longer track record of success. That process could be accelerated if Budenholzer can grab his first victory over Popovich on Saturday. Stay tuned.

Game Info

Game Date/Time: Saturday, December 12, 8:00 p.m. ET

Location: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia

TV: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass

Radio: 92.9 "The Game" FM