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Hawks build huge lead before holding on against Spurs, 109-99

San Antonio Spurs v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks welcomed the San Antonio Spurs to town for this edition of the annual MLK Day afternoon game.

The Hawks soared to a quick start behind quick ball movement on offense, and as a result they jumped out to an early 16-5 lead at the first timeout. The tandem of Trae Young and Jalen Johnson particularly carved up a sluggish Spurs defense, and each of that duo finished the first period with four assists. Young punctuated the opening 12 minutes with a buzzer beater at the rim.

Atlanta’s defense bested their offense in the first quarter, however, holding San Antonio to 6-for-21 (29%) shooting from the field and 2-for-11 (18%) from three.

The gravy train kept on rolling in the second quarter, as Atlanta seemingly got anything they wanted on the offensive end. Young began the game a perfect 6-for-6 from deep, hitting them from across the parking lot at times.

He also finished at the rim at will, like on this nifty move for the hoop plus the harm.

The lead ballooned to 30 in a hurry as San Antonio couldn’t shake the yips when trying to finish near the rim. Atlanta rolled to the halftime break and led by a commanding 69-34 edge.

Trae Young had a bonkers 29 points and seven assists at the halfway point behind 6-for-7 (83%) shooting from three. Atlanta played some its best defense of the year in holding San Antonio to 12-for-47 (27%) shooting from the field and forcing 11 turnovers to that point.

In the third quarter, the Hawks began with a bit of a lull as the Spurs switched up their lineup to begin the period. Out was Victor Wembanyama and in was Sandro Mamukelashvili among other backups. But Atlanta rebounded after the initial stumble and pushed the lead back up to 78-48 six minutes into the quarter.

Later, the Spurs starters were inserted and that sparked another San Antonio run to bring the game to 83-63 with two minutes remaining in the quarter. Atlanta eventually survived the latest edition of the third quarter horrors to make it an 87-67 game heading into the final period with help from this late Trae Young floater.

Atlanta was unable to right the ship in the early portion of the fourth quarter and the lead shrank to 15 points, the lowest gap since the first quarter. And so, the Hawks had re-entered a true scrap for the game.

The game got increasingly dicier and dicier from there, with Victor Wembanyama hitting 11 straight shots — 10 makes at the rim and one triple — to lead the San Antonio comeback. The lead was as low as six points at one juncture late in the fourth quarter, but the Hawks rallied with a couple of finishes at the rim and clutch free throws to finally seal the win.

Young led the Hawks with 36 points, 13 assists and six rebounds. Jalen Johnson added 16 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and six steals, making him the first player since Russell Westbrook in 2018 to reach those numbers in a game. The Hawks will have one day off before welcoming the surging Orlando Magic to State Farm Arena on Wednesday.