"We played better than they played tonight, but it's just one night in the NBA," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said just minutes after his reeling San Antonio Spurs team dominated the Hawks in a 105-83 win.
While it may be one night in the NBA and everything can change next game, it wasn't as simple as saying one team was better.
Richard Jefferson gave the Spurs a much needed boost to start the game with two-three pointers. In the second quarter, Matt Bonner got started on what would be a big night with a pair of threes and a deep jumper that was announced as a three but only counted for two points.
"I had the first couple go down.It always makes things easier,"Bonner said. "My teammates did a good job of finding me when I was open, moved the ball and got good shots."
While the Spurs lead early and managed to distance themselves from the Hawks with a 14-point lead early in the second quarter, the Hawks bounced back with a 12-2 run that left them just four points down entering halftime.
After Jeff Teague knocked down a floater to open the third quarter and narrow the margin to two points, the Spurs turned up their defensive intensity after a tongue lashing from Popovich at halftime.
"Pop got after us over the first half, so we came out after the half and got out there and did a great job," Spurs center DeJuan Blair said. "It is a quick season and we want to get through and go and we can't be half playing."
After Popovich made a mass substitution after a timeout, bringing in Bonner, Danny Green, Cory Joseph and Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs went on a 14-6 run in the third quarter, lead by Bonner's nine points, all on three-pointers.
Hawks guard Joe Johnson, who averages 19.1 points per game, and has seen an offensive spike with Al Horford out, was limited all game. He scored his eighth point (10 total) late in the third quarter. Normally a 43 percent shooter from the field, Johnson was held to just 27 percent when he knocked down a jumper with 2:20 left in the third.
Johnson, whose Hawks are 9-1 when he scored 20 or more points, had Leonard and Green chasing him around all night.
"We always put him on one of the toughest guys every night, he's doing a very good job," Green said of Leonard. "We look very long and active. For a rookie he's doing very well on defense."
Once the fourth quarter came around, there was little the Hawks could do to erase their 15-point deficit, especially when Spurs big men DeJuan Blair and Tiago Splitter took over.
Splitter started it all with a bucket and a foul to give the Spurs an 18-point lead. Blair then had consecutive layups, followed by a pair of free throws by Splitter and four more points from Blair.
When the final horn sounded, Blair had racked up 17 points (13 in the second half), and Splitter finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and one blocked shot.
Also scoring in double figures for the Spurs were Tony Parker (15 points, seven assists), Green (10), and Bonner (17).
Aside from second half defense, the Spurs' bench played a key role in the game, accounting for 51 of the Spurs' 105 points, compared to the Hawks bench contribution of 27 points.
"Our bench was fantastic," Popovich said. "A number of people came into the game and played good solid basketball both at the defensive and offensive ends."
With the win, the Spurs are now 12-7 and 10-1 at home.
I remember somedody saying that tiago didn't have a post game, well they probably didn't see enough tape of him to know that his non post game could get him 10-15 points a game.
so the spurs bigs with their limited size dominates another teams bigs. sure horford was out, but in the end i dont think he was going to help them much. splitter is showing the reason why the spurs drafted him, and i like where he is in the rotation. not starting but finishing!
the defense looked much better tonight, i still have this fear they will not keep that defensive intensity.
@JohnAbney Although Bonner had a big game offensively, I am still concerned for the Spurs defensively with Bonner getting so much playing time. Bonner is, quite frankly, the worst defensive big man in the NBA by a long shot - he is slow, unathletic, short for his position, and he is always lost defensively. Hopefully, next year Ryan Richards will come over from England (he's young and pretty good) and maybe even Erazam Lorbek (whom we got from the Pacers). Matt Bonner is not a legitimate guy to play in big games, and we need a more defensively minded big man to come in (Lance Thomas?)
Some players are shooters and some rebounds. By necessity, because of the shortage of big men, the spurs has to utilize Bonner to defend and rebound. True, there are streches when Bonner seem lose and can't guard his man but he is a shooter NOT a defensive player. The solutiion is for the spurs to recruit a big man and defend the interior, like Malcolm Thomas to hire another one. The spurs are short of 15 players.