Ten observations from watching Spurs 96, Hawks 85 from my couch . . .
1. The Hawks stayed competitive through some cold shooting in the first half. They found their rhythm in the third quarter with John Collins and Taurean Prince as the catalysts. But then the Hawks had a string of bad possessions and missed free throws in the fourth quarter. The Spurs were getting plenty of open 3's and it seemed a matter of time before some went in. Once they did, it became another Hawks loss in which they competed but couldn't finish.
2. Collins (21 points on 12 shots, nine rebounds in 36 minutes) started the second half when Luke Babbitt went to the locker room because of back spasms. Collins ignited the Hawks after halftime by attacking the rim on screen-rolls. The Spurs have plenty of brawn in their frontcourt but no bigs quick enough to keep the springy rookie away from the basket once he got moving. Collins scored 10 points in the third quarter as the Hawks cut an eight-point lead to one.
3. Prince wasn't making his 3's (2-for-7) but created good shots at the basket while scoring 18 points. Earlier this season he'd try to muscle his way to the basket but now he knives between bodies and uses his long reach to get to the rim. The Spurs didn't have a good matchup for him, either. Prince missed three free throws in a row at winning time.
4. Dewayne Dedmon had a very good night in what's been a good season for him. He did good work on the boards, especially during the first-half stretch when the Hawks were starved for points. Dedmon made three perimeter jumpers in the first half, including a 3-pointer. Dedmon still looks smooth and confident on those jump shots. He also was very good when going out to defend LaMarcus Aldridge on the perimeter.
5. Early in the game, the Hawks played at a crisp pace in the halfcourt, moved the ball smartly and produced open 3-pointers. They were just missing them. The Spurs couldn't pull away because the Hawks scrambled defensively to challenge shots, got stops and rebounded.
6. And then the Hawks started making open shots, many of them set up by Dennis Schroder weaving through the defense and making smart passes. Schroder, Prince and Dedmon made 3's as the Hawks kept the Spurs from running away with the lead.
7. Eventually the Spurs got the Hawks into a slower, grinding game. That put pressure on the Hawks to execute for the length of the shot clock to get open looks and they couldn't do it consistently (they also had some good shots rim out). The Spurs methodically pulled away to a 46-38 halftime lead.
8. Schroder (14 points on 14 shots, nine assists, four turnovers) left the game in the first quarter after taking the brunt of a collision with Aldridge. When he returned in the second period, the Spurs made it harder for him to drive the lane and be the catalyst.
9. DeAndre' Bembry played four minutes after making a cameo against the Celtics. He tried to make some plays off the dribble but mishandled the ball. Bembry did have a nice wraparound pass to Collins for a dunk on a pick-and-roll.
10. Babbitt's injury pressed Ersan Ilyasova into action after he didn't play against the Celtics. He played seven minutes and made two shots during the third-quarter run. Tyler Cavanaugh played two minutes. Tyler Dorsey and Miles Plumlee stayed on the bench.
(Also: Respect to Manu Ginobili, who is 40-years old and still a valuable player. He made a long 2-pointer at the first-quarter buzzer: pump faked, stepped to his right and then launched while drifting away from the basket. It was a smooth, controlled and confident move. All through the first half Ginobili got to the basket by clearing space with his body and whipped around passes.)
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Credit: Ben Hendren for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution