The Atlanta Hawks suffered a season-high third straight loss on Sunday in a 114-95 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. Atlanta has allowed at least 114 points in each of those losses and offered little resistance to the Spurs who shot 56 percent for the game.
"Give a lot of credit to San Antonio," Mike Budenholzer said following the game. "They played well tonight. They had a couple of individuals who played really well. We need to play better. We'll work on that and we'll look at the film and get back to work this week."
San Antonio set the tone early and never looked back. The Spurs raced out to a 26-6 lead with just over four minutes remaining in the first quarter. Atlanta was able to close the quarter with a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to 13 points but that was as close as they would be for the remainder of the evening.
Budenholzer admitted that the last three defensive performances were concerning but he is confident that the team can get back to playing at the level they were earlier this season.
"The last three games, the way teams have been able to get free and get shots and the percentages they've shot is a concern," Budenholzer said. It's a lot of little things. It starts probably with better individual defense. But I would probably be more concerned if we hadn't shown an ability to do it a lot of the season. We need to draw on that. We need to know how important it is first, to be good defensively, and to remind us how we are good defensively, and get back to doing that."
The Hawks are in the final stretch of the season and despite the current losing streak, still have a sizable lead in the Eastern Conference standings. Its pretty much a foregone conclusion that they will enter the playoffs as the East's top seed. So are their recent struggles the result of the wear and tear of a long season? Or, is something else at work here? Budenholzer doesn't think there is anything wrong with his team physically but acknowledges that mentally they could use a jumpstart.
"No I don't think fatigue," said Budenholzer. "I think our focus probably needs to be a little better, a little higher. I think the group isn't fatigued. I think physically we are in a good place. I think mentally we probably could be better. You are constantly monitoring the physical side of it and the mental side of it. We are not as sharp as we need to be mentally."
You can't argue that the foot has been off of the accelerator for sometime now for the Hawks. The question is can they get their focus back and can that happen before the playoffs begin? Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich chalked Sunday's performance by Atlanta up to it being the first game back after a long road trip.
"I think we caught a break tonight," Popovich said. "Everybody knows the first game home after a road trip is always a very difficult game. And when you've been on the road 13 days as the Hawks were, it usually ends up not being a great game. With Kyle Korver coming back and not having his rhythm, they have to get used to him again. In addition to that we had a really good night, and they had a poor night. It happens to all of us. It's just another game, and we move on."
So how do the Hawks move on from a third-straight loss? They carry forward the same way they have all season. With one eye on the next game and the other on themselves.
"We give them a lot of credit," Budenholzer said. "Some of the things they did well I think we need to do some of those things, driving and finding guys and moving the ball. It is a lot of the stuff we have done all year. I think taking care of the paint. Just all of the little things. Decision making, quicker decisions, harder drives, better defense, better individual defense. You've got to do all of the little things against a good team. So tonight and other nights when we haven't played well against the good teams, that is what you learn. Rarely is it just one big thing, it's a lot of little things that add up to being a good team and having success."