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Spurs vs. Hawks preview: 2017 begins with a visit from Kawhi Leonard and Gregg Popovich

Happy New Year! There is a basketball game this evening.

NBA: Preseason-Atlanta Hawks at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks finished 2016 with back-to-back victories and the team looks to begin 2017 in similar fashion on Sunday evening. However, Paul Millsap, Dwight Howard and company will encounter a difficult challenge, as Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs invade Philips Arena on the first day of the new year.

If it seems as if the Spurs have owned the Hawks in recent memory... it is because they have. San Antonio has taken 18 of the last 19 (!) meetings against Atlanta dating back to 2006 and this year’s Spurs team is also loaded to the point where the visitors are favored in this particular match-up.

Still, there are signs of life from the Hawks right now and that provides some slight optimism. Dealing with Kawhi Leonard (the type of big, physical wing that always presents issues) will be a challenge for Thabo Sefolosha and others, but Atlanta is uniquely equipped to deal with San Antonio’s frontcourt combination of LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol. It should be noted that Leonard is questionable after missing the last two games with illness, but reports seem optimistic about his status.

Facing off against the Spurs, even at home, is always a tough task for any NBA team and that remains the case today for the Hawks. However, it also presents an interesting measuring stick to see if any of the perceived progress lately is “real” and plenty of intrigue awaits. Stay tuned throughout the day for all the latest from Philips Arena and let’s do this together.

Game Info

Game Date/Time: Sunday, January 1, 6:00 p.m. ET

Location: Philips Arena

TV: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass

Radio: 92.9 “The Game” FM