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Hawks lose 21st straight game in San Antonio, 117-111

The streak continues.

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

A short-handed Hawks team came up short versus the Spurs losing 117-111 and marking their 21st consecutive loss in San Antonio. Strong performances from Kent Bazemore and Alex Len were not enough as Demar DeRozan scored 29 to pace the home team to a vital victory as they fight for important playoff positioning.

In addition to playing without Taurean Prince and Dewayne Dedmon, John Collins did not play due to load management. The Spurs played with a full complement of players.

Both teams found little resistance to getting points on the board early as the Spurs and Hawks exchanged baskets. By the 7:29 mark of the first quarter, all ten starters had entered their names into the scoring column. Defensively, the Spurs were intent on running the Hawks off the three-point line. Wisely, the Hawks took what the defense was giving them and found most of their early points in the paint.

The Hawks did manage a couple of threes early from Len and Justin Anderson. Len’s three-pointer was a milestone of sorts. It was the team’s’ 1000th made three of the season, making the Hawks just the eighth team in NBA history to reach that mark in a single season.

Late in the opening period, Patty Mills helped the Spurs create some separation with three consecutive threes during a 9-3 Spurs’ run. The last of those three pointers put the Spurs up 31-26 with 1:36 remaining in the quarter. Hawks’ reserve Isaac Humphries closed the gap to two points with the final basket of the period, the first NBA score of his career.

The Spurs led 33-31 at the end of one as they shot 13-for-22 from the field and 4-for-7 from the three-point line. Mills led the Spurs with nine while Trae Young, Kevin Huerter and Len each scored six for the Hawks.

Early in the second quarter, DeMar DeRozan asserted his physical, mid-range games versus Hawks’ bench defenders finding his way to the free throw line on consecutive possessions . An old-fashioned three point play followed by two more made free throws put the Spurs ahead 41-35 near the eight minute mark.

Bazemore kept the Hawks close with a couple of early buckets then continued that momentum to fuel a 12-3 Hawks run that was capped by Bazemore’s second three pointer of the period. It put the Hawks ahead 47-44 with 5:18 to go before the half. Bazemore headed back to the bench with 4:33 remaining having scored twelve of the Hawks’ 16 points in the quarter.

With Bazemore back on the bench, the Hawks’ offense turned cold. While failing to score of five consecutive possessions, Alex Len was called for his third foul, forcing Deyonta Davis back into the game with the daunting task of guarding LaMarcus Aldridge. The Spurs took advantage of that matchup which yielded a quick 6-0 run for the home team giving them a 56-51 lead.

Young, who had been relatively quiet for most of the first half, pulled the Hawks within two heading to the break. He made a layup in traffic then drew an offensive foul on DeRozan on the Spurs’ next possession. DeRozan voice his displeasure with the call and earned a technical foul. Young made the free throw to end the first half with a 58-56 Spurs’ lead.

Bazemore led the Hawks with 15 first half points. Len scored ten while Young added nine points and three assists. Three Spurs scored in double figures as DeRozan scored 14 while Mills and Aldridge scored twelve.

The Spurs out-shot the Hawks in the first half 53% to 46% including 6-for-12 on three pointers compared to 4-for-16 for the Hawks. But Atlanta used an edge in offensive rebounding and turnovers to keep the game close.

The Hawks retook the lead on a Huerter three which gave Atlanta a 61-60 lead less than two minutes into the second half. Back-to-back threes from Bryn Forbes and Derrick White put San Antonio back in front 66-61. Five more points from Forbes and another three-point play for DeRozan pushed the lead to 76-68 with 7:08 remaining in the third quarter.

With multiple reserves back in the game, the Hawks turned up the energy and effort. They forced multiple turnovers and used back-to-back threes from DeAndre’ Bembry and Len to cap an 8-0 run and tie the score 80-80. The Hawks parlayed the 8-0 run into a 18-6 run to end the third quarter with a 90-86 lead. The Hawks made 6-of-11 from behind the arc during the third quarter including 3-for-3 from Len, who scored eleven in the period.

Atlanta opened the fourth quarter the same way they ended the third. A three-pointer by Bazemore followed by a transition dunk for Davis put the Hawks up 95-86. Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich called a timeout to get his team reorganized. The final tally was a 23-6 run that turned the game around for the Hawks.

After the timeout, Forbes stopped the bleeding for the Spurs with a three-pointer. Bazemore countered with yet another three of his own to keep the lead at nine.

Amidst several minutes of helter skelter basketball, the Spurs used four DeRozan free throws and a three from Marco Belinelli to regain some momentum and close the gap to 100-96 with 6:48 to play in the game. It was Hawks’ coach Lloyd Pierce’s turn to use a timeout to stop the opponent’s momentum.

After the timeout, DeRozan made his way back to the free throw line for two more points. A three from White followed to pull the Spurs within a point at 102-101 with 4:53 remaining. Less than a minute later, another bucket by White gave the Spurs their first lead since late in the third quarter. A desperation three by Belinelli with the shot clock expiring put the Spurs ahead 108-104, forcing another timeout by Pierce.

With the Hawks trailing by five, 112-107, DeRozan earned his sixth foul of the game with 1:20 to play. Vince Cater made both free throws to pull the Hawks to within three, but Forbes struck again with another three to push the lead to 115-109 with 1:07 to play. An empty Hawks’ possession and a jumper by White put the Spurs up by eight with 40 seconds left and sealed the victory for San Antonio.

The Hawks are back in action tomorrow night when they face the Philadelphia 76ers in Atlanta.