Think back to the year 1997. Seems like a long time huh? Were you alive? Were you in school? Maybe you were a little baby crying in the crib. Well that’s the last time the Atlanta Hawks franchise walked in an arena and beat the San Antonio Spurs on the road. You see it’s been so long the since the Spurs lost to the Hawks, they played in the old Alamo Dome.
This span extended to 19 straight games on Monday night as the San Antonio Spurs tied the Golden State Warriors for the best record in the NBA beating the Hawks 107-99. The two teams are now 52-14 with sixteen games remaining.
Hawks point guard Dennis Schroder had 22 points and 10 assists to lead Atlanta, while Tim Hardaway Jr. continued his solid play with 17 points. Paul Millsap and Kent Bazemore combined for 31 points, but had only five rebounds between them. The loss snapped Atlanta’s three game winning streak.
Kawhi Leonard made his triumphant return from a concussion scoring 31 points for a Spurs team that were uncharacteristically sloppy at times during the game. They had a season high 23 turnovers, missed shots they usually make and looked out of sorts at times. Normally a performance like this would incite anger from Head Coach Gregg Popovich.
What does Popovich have to say about his team’s performance, via ESPN.com:
“I was really pleased that they continue to guard and hustle they way they did despite being sloppy with the ball,”
What this means Hawks fans is, the San Antonio Spurs find ways to win ball games even though they have issues like every other NBA team. The Spurs were without their starting point guard Tony Parker and LaMarcus Aldridge, who missed his second straight game with minor heart arrhythmia. His status is still unknown
Kawhi Leonard spoke on Aldridge and his condition:
“We just want him to get better, don’t want to rush it,”….”That’s something serious with his heart.”
So does the NBA family and it’s fans.
Well let’s get to it, after losing 19 straight games in San Antonio, the question here is why? So I had to learn…
Lesson number one: These are the San Antonio Spurs
Most teams would use losing two of their starters (Aldridge and Parker) and getting another back from concussion protocol (Leonard) as an excuse for not playing well and consider it just another game. But these are the Spurs; San Antonio made a season high 16 3-pointers in the game, which included 7-for-12 from the starting guards. Patty Mills finished with 15 points, nine assists with no turnovers. Danny Green finished with 14 points.
Plus the way the Spurs played defensively, they bailed themselves out. Out of the 23 turnovers San Antonio committed, the Hawks could only come up with 21 points off of them.
Paul Millsap’s take courtesy of ESPN.com:
“If you get turnovers, you have to get points out of them, and we just didn’t capitalize on that tonight…”
Lesson number two: That Kawhi Leonard dude is a bad man.
He won’t win the MVP, but don’t mistake it. In my opinion, this guy is the best player in the world right now. Not James Harden, not LeBron James (remember Leonard dropped 40 plus on Cleveland earlier this season…), and not Russell Westbrook. There are plenty of criticisms about the behavior of NBA players and how they conduct themselves on the floor and off. Kawhi Leonard is not a part of this discussion. It is amazing how a guy can return from concussion protocol and play as well as he did on Monday night.
Kawhi Leonard on how he felt, again via ESPN.com:
“I felt good,”…”Just like ay other game. Our medicine team and trainers did a good job of getting me prepared.”
I mean seriously folks. What NBA superstar talks like this? He sure put on a superstar performance in the first quarter, knocking down five straight shots which included a step back fadeaway with a hand in his face. This happened after he missed his first two, and one of them bounced in-and-out.
Lesson number three: Atlanta has San Antonio’s culture.
Mike Budenholzer is from the Gregg Popovich coaching tree. This means that over time the Atlanta Hawks organization will have a culture of winning and doing it the right way. But there was one problem with that last night: his mentor pretty much knows the San Antonio way like the back of his hand.
It looked like little brother and big brother at times last night. At times the Hawks looked like they were on par with the Spurs, but you just knew they weren’t going to get over the hump. The Spurs at times knew what to do when the Hawks tried to make things close. Now that the Spurs are close to playoff time, it is very difficult for anyone — let alone the Hawks — to beat this team when Popovich is preparing playoff rosters. It’s just the way it is.
Here’s what I learned…now learn from this!
The Hawks last won in San Antonio on Feb. 15, 1997. That was the time when Steve Smith was the star in Atlanta. He now works in Atlanta on NBA-TV. This is a long streak folks.
The Hawks have 15 games remaining, which includes seven at home and eight on the road. The Hawks shot only 6-22 from the three point line and an un-playoff like 19-30 from the free throw line.