Mike Budenholzer and Gregg Popovich shared a hug at center court before the start of tonight’s preseason game between the Hawks and Spurs. It was the first time the two had ever been coaching on opposing sides of the court.
Advantage still belongs to Popovich and the Spurs after a 106-104 victory.
The two teams got off to poor starts, turning in 44-41 first half with the Spurs on top. However, San Antonio exploded in the third quarter, scoring 38 points to Atlanta’s 26 to take a decisive hold on the game.
“We let our guard down,” said DeMarre Carroll on the Spurs’ big third frame. “We have to play with more energy. For the most part, we did a lot of great things as a team. we just have to continue to keep finding ourselves.”
Until he could watch the tape, Coach Budenholzer left his review on the third quarter simple:
“We can’t have a 38 point defensive quarter.”
The Hawks did manage to rally in the fourth quarter, in large part because of the advantage of having the starters playing against San Antonio’s bench. Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver had the most success in the quarter, scoring 10 and eight points, respectively. The Hawks had a chance to tie or take the lead with three seconds left, but Jeff Teague’s pass to an open Korver in the corner came too late, and the buzzer sounded before the Hawks could get a shot up.
“That was the plan coming in,” said Budenholzer when asked why his starters played so much in a preseason game. “We wanted to get the starters in our group a good run, start building their conditioning levels, start getting them ready and prepared to play those minutes when we start a regular season game.”
The Hawks are now 1-3 on the preseason, but of course, not everything can be told from a preseason record.
“At this point,” said Al Horford, who scored 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, “we’re not really concerned about the score much. It’s really about what we’re doing on defense, making sure we’re doing the right things. I was encouraged to see we’re on the same page for the most part defensively. Our offense still needs some work. It’s nowhere near where it needs to be, but we understand that; we’ve only been running it for two weeks.”
Despite the feel for needing to grow on offense, the Hawks still did well on that end. After a rough shooting first quarter, the Hawks shot 33-for-63 (52%) in the final three quarters. They also continued to show great ball movement, dishing out 30 assists on 39 field goals. They also got to the charity stripe 29 times, which was an anemic part of Atlanta’s offense last season on Larry Drew.
Among other accomplishments, Korver led the Hawks with 26 points on 15 field goal attempts. Carroll had 14 points, all of which came via cut to basket or the free throw line. Millsap and Teague both had double-doubles, and Jared Cunningham and Mike Scott each contributed 11 points off the bench. Dennis Schröder sat for the game with knee soreness, as did John Jenkins due to back spasm. Lou Williams, of course, is still rehabbing from his ACL tear.
For the Spurs, Tony Parker led the way with 17 points. Tim Duncan looked as good as ever, scoring 16 points and tallying eight rebounds in under 20 minutes of play. Marco Belinelli had 13 points as a reserve.
The Hawks will continue their three-game preseason homestand on Sunday against Marc Gasol and the Grizzlies. The game will be at 3PM and will not be televised.