November 04, 2014

The Atlanta Hawks have tried to mimic his former club since hiring Mike Budenholzer away from San Antonio, though it hasn't stopped the Spurs from dominating the all-time series - particularly at home.

The Spurs go for an 18th straight home win over the Hawks on Saturday night.

San Antonio (13-3) is known for its methodical approach under Gregg Popovich, who uses a deep bench and in recent seasons has done a good job resting his veterans to get them ready for the playoffs. Five titles since 1999 are proof that his philosophy pays off.

Budenholzer, an assistant under Popovich starting in 1996, brought those ideals to the Hawks (11-7) two seasons ago and they led to a franchise-best 60-22 record in 2014-15.

The Spurs, though, have still maintained the upper hand in direct matchups and Popovich has beaten his former understudy's team in all four meetings.

San Antonio's dominance is staggering with 28 victories in the past 32 meetings, including nine in a row while holding the Hawks to 91.2 points per game.

The Spurs enter this one on a four-game win streak during which they've allowed an average of 82.3 points. They limited Denver to 40.3 percent shooting in a 91-80 road win Friday while resting Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili with three games coming in four days.

Kawhi Leonard continued his emergence as San Antonio's next star, scoring 25 points with seven rebounds, six assists, five blocks and four steals. The forward is averaging career highs of 22.0 points and 7.8 rebounds while shooting 52.2 percent from the floor, including 46.8 from behind the arc.

"He is playing well and playing under control," point guard Tony Parker said. "He is shooting the ball well and he is playing at both ends. Both defensively and offensively, he is playing great so far."

Leonard was terrific in the last meeting March 22, scoring 20 points with 10 rebounds, seven assists and four steals in a 114-95 win at Atlanta.

He's deflecting any praise to Parker, who is averaging 13.6 points and 4.8 assists.

"T.P. has just been doing a good job ... of getting his rhythm going and when the defense collapses on him, he's just finding us out there and getting us wide-open shots," Leonard said. "It just gets you in a rhythm."

The Hawks are aiming for their first win in San Antonio since Feb. 15, 1997, during Popovich's first season on the Spurs' bench.

Atlanta ended its four-game road losing streak Friday, beating Memphis 116-101 after clamping down defensively. The Hawks yielded just 19 points in the fourth quarter while the Grizzlies made 6 of 20 from the floor.

"We buckled down. We made it tough on them defensively," said Paul Millsap, who led six Hawks in double figures with 23 points and added 14 rebounds. "We contested shots better. We got our hands on the basketball, got deflections and we boxed out pretty good.

"When you do that, it puts a little more pressure on them."

Millsap is averaging 23.3 points and 11.0 rebounds over the last three games. However, he's scored 11.7 points per game over his last six visits to San Antonio.

Jeff Teague hasn't been any better, averaging 7.3 points in the past three matchups.

Tiago Splitter has missed three straight games with pain in his right hip so he may not be available for his return to San Antonio. The center spent his first five seasons with the Spurs before being traded to the Hawks this past summer.

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