San Antonio Spurs 108, Atlanta Hawks 92:Because the Spurs have Tony Parker, and the Hawks don’t
AT&T CENTER–The Atlanta Hawks have the sort of defensive length on the wings and mobile bigs along the front line that coaches dream about having and opposing ball handlers fear facing. For a night, at least, it was enough to give Manu Ginobili nightmares–the Hawks forcing Manu into six turnovers against no assists.
But all the athleticism in the world does not matter if you’re still relying on Mike Bibby to defend the point of attack, as the Atlanta Hawks asked him to do for much of the fourth quarter. In a game that featured a sloppy (14 turnovers against only 20 assists) and unfocused (16-25 from the free throw line) Spurs team, it was enough of a mistake from the Hawks for San Antonio to turn a grind-it-out game into the blowout victory the AT&T Center crowd is becoming accustomed to. And they did it without the benefit ofÂ Tim Duncan and only a brief cameo from Manu in the fourth.
The term plus/minus gets thrown around a bit through these pages, and admittedly, some of it is merely a running joke to get a rise out of Matt Bonner’s biggest critics. But while a player like Al Horford (-19) was far from the reason Atlanta lost, Mike Bibby earned every bit of the -17 he put up.
Both Bibby and Tony Parker checked into the fourth quarter at the 8:53 mark, and the Hawks spent much of the remaining time on their heels as the Spurs ran Bibby through repeated pick and rolls and isolations that ultimately ended in three-point shots–specifically Richard Jefferson from the baseline (5-6 from three, 18 points). The benefit of having so many mobile shooters this season is there is no longer a place to hide defensive liabilities like Bibby.
All things being equal, and looking through last night’s stats (in total rebounds, steals, turnovers, and assists) they were equal, what separated the Spurs from the Hawks was the proficiency in which Spurs guards ran the pick an roll, and the Hawks inability to do anything in such situations at either end of the court. Parker was able to blow by Bibby and the rest of his teammates were able to find open three-pointers against a scrambling defense.
Because it’s a Friday night game, and there is a quick turnaround with Portland coming in on Sunday, here are a few quick thoughts in bullet form from tonight’s game:
- For all the complaints about the Hawks isolation heavy offense of the past, they really do not have a point guard or player on the roster that is a consistent threat on the pick and roll. Bibby lacks the first step to get to the rim or create passing lanes for teammates and Jamal Crawford–the lone player who can turn the corner in such situations–does so only looking for his own shot.
- After a rough start to the season, starting “center” DeJuan Blair appears to be getting comfortable, recording his second consecutive double-double (16 points, 12 rebounds) for the first time this season. Of note was a two-play sequence in the second quarter in which Blair followed a nasty crossover dribble for a layup against Al Horford by receiving an outlet pass at half court from Tim Duncan and racing down and Euro-stepping Jamal Crawford for a layup.
- Before the game San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich joked that more amazing than DeJuan Blair’s improvement at the free throw lines was NASA’s (with some help from Manu Ginobili) discovery of lifeforms from other planets. After tonight, both appeared to myths.