Hawks at Spurs Live Notebook

Ben Ladner

The Hawks will hope to carry some positive momentum into the second half of their season on Friday night with a trip to San Antonio, where the 17-22 Spurs await. Coming off a win over the Suns, Atlanta is playing some of its best basketball of the season, but the Spurs never provide a break in the schedule and the Hawks haven't won in San Antonio since 1997. 

Hawks at Spurs Game Preview

Games, seasons, and even careers in the NBA can often hinge on single moments - inflection points that represent some change in direction or identity. For the Spurs, that moment came on December 23, when LaMarcus Aldridge scored 40 points and attempted five 3-pointers in a 30-point win over the Grizzlies.

Follow along below for live updates and insights from Friday night's game. 

Pregame

Trade, Injuries Leave Hawks Shorthanded

Atlanta will start Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, Cam Reddish, De'Andre Hunter, and John Collins against the Spurs, but its depth will be more depleted than usual with several key rotation players unavailable. 

Alex Len didn't make the one-game trip to San Antonio due to a back injury, while Jabari Parker remains out with a shoulder impingement. Bruno Fernando will return from a personal absence from the team, but his role will likely be limited due to his prolonged leave. Allen Crabbe was traded to the Timberwolves on Thursday, but Jeff Teague and Treveon Graham won't join the team until Saturday night in Atlanta. Even Chandler Parsons, who hasn't been on the active roster in recent games, is out with a concussion. 

The Spurs will counter with its usual starting five of Dejounte Murray, Bryn Forbes, DeMar DeRozan, Trey Lyles, and LaMarcus Aldridge. 

First Quarter

Murray Making a Difference Early

Dejounte Murray's length and activity has been a driving force early in this game, tallying six points, four rebounds, two assists, and a steal. He led off the game by poking away a dribble-handoff to Trae Young and laying it in on the other end, and has gotten downhill multiple times for layups of dump-off passes to teammates. 

Young got the better of Murray on a couple of plays, once hitting an extremely difficult 3-pointer over him and then drawing a double-team and finding Collins with a pocket pass for two free throws. That individual battle has commanded the spotlight thus far, and could ultimately decide the game one way or another. 

LaMarcus Aldridge also has eight early points on 4-of-6 shooting, but the Hawks have started off hot from the field and hold a 19-16 lead. 

Atlanta Holding DeRozan In Check

The Hawks have done a nice job walling off the paint and making DeMar DeRozan see multiple bodies on drives. He is just 1-for-3 from the field early, and his drives have been met with several defenders and often resulted in kick-out passes. The Spurs have gotten looks at the rim via the post and offensive rebounds, but seldom off of dribble penetration, and the Hawks are making a gun-shy jumpshooting team take kickout 3s. 

Pierce Keeps a Deep Rotation In First Quarter

Nine Hawks played in the first quarter, with Young, Cam Reddish, and Kevin Huerter each playing a team-high 10 minutes. Bruno Fernando and Charlie Brown were the only active players who didn't see the floor. This could be a game in which Lloyd Pierce shaves a few minutes off of each player's total by playing a deeper and more evenly dispersed rotation than usual. With a 7:30 home game looming on Saturday, the Hawks would be wise to conserve as much energy as realistically possible tonight and make a stronger run at tomorrow's game with a full roster. 

Second Quarter

Carter Anchoring Second Unit

Vince Carter just played one of his best stints since the Hawks' win in Charlotte in December, hitting three 3s on his way to 12 first-half points. With Trae Young, John Collins, and Kevin Huerter off the floor, Carter was Atlanta's primary source of offense late in the first quarter and early in the second. Carter's season-high is 17 points in that win against the Hornets, and he could be on his way to a new high-water mark tonight. 

Young Opening Up Hawks Offense

Young is up to 16 points and four assists in one of his more effortless scoring halves of the season, and the Hawks are profiting both directly and indirectly from his shot-making. He's scoring from all over the floor against San Antonio's defense, getting downhill for layups or floaters, and hitting four of his first five 3-point attempts. 

Against the Spurs' drop pick-and-roll coverage, Young has stepped into wide-open pull-up jumpers. When they've sent two bodies at Young or failed to help from the weak side, he his found Collins rolling to the rim. The Hawks stretched their lead over the final few minutes of the second quarter thanks to Young's shooting, and Atlanta finished the first half scoring 1.22 points per possession. The Hawks are shooting well from the field and have doubled up the Spurs in free-throw attempts. I'd expect San Antonio to vary its defensive scheme at some point in the second half in order to slow him down. 

Meanwhile, a big sequence to close the first half: Dejounte Murray pokes the ball away from Reddish in transition after a nice over-the-head pass form Young, then finds Aldridge ahead of the pack for a buzzer-beating midrange jumper to cut the Hawks' lead to nine. 

Atlanta leads 67-58 at halftime. 

Third Quarter

Hawks Using Young Off the Ball

Kevin Huerter initiated the offense on each of Atlanta's first two possessions of the second half while Young worked away from the ball. On the second trip, he circled back to the top of the key for a dribble-handoff, then attacked downhill with a head of steam. The Hawks have tried to run these sorts of actions more often when Huerter has been healthy, but still Young has carried the lion's share of the offense. 

Part of the allure of bringing in a capable veteran point guard like Jeff Teague, perhaps, is his ability to run the offense and let Young work off the ball -- and thus get easier shots. That process could take some time given how used the Hawks are to a Young-centric system, but it should improve the overall health of the offense. 

Aldridge Picks Up Fourth Foul

The Hawks don't have an answer for LaMarcus Aldridge right now, but he just picked up his fourth personal foul hooking Damian Jones on a move to the basket with 7:14 to play. He scored 10 points in less than five minutes in the third period, both inside and outside the 3-point arc, and without its offensive rudder, the Spurs will lean more on DeRozan to create offense while Jakob Poeltl mans the middle on defense. 

Not long after Aldridge's fourth foul, Dejounte Murray committed his fourth as well, putting the Spurs' most important offense and defensive players in jeopardy of missing extended time in the second half. San Antonio leads 80-76 with 5:12 to play thanks to DeRozan's play, but if there's a time for the Hawks to make a run, it's now. 

Spurs Stretch Lead To 15

The Spurs have outscored the Hawks 36-12 and opened up a 15-point lead in the third quarter. Atlanta is 3-for-22 in the quarter while the Spurs have scored virtually at will -- even with Aldridge off the floor for most of the quarter. DeRozan has been fantastic collapsing Atlanta's defense and getting all the way to the rim or spraying the ball to shooters, and the Hawks have been unable to contend with him and Patty Mills in the pick-and-roll. 

Atlanta's shot quality has deteriorated noticeably in the second half -- the Hawks aren't moving the ball as smoothly as they had earlier in the game and missed shots have compounded that lack of fluidity. 

Now, rather than trying to extend a lead entering the fourth quarter, the Hawks will have to empty the tank just to get back in the game -- with another game looming on Saturday. 

Fourth Quarter

Reddish Buoying Hawks On Second Unit

Atlanta closed the third quarter and began the fourth with Young, Huerter, and Collins on the bench, which has thrust Cam Reddish into the spotlight. The rookie has been nearly the only scoring threat on the second unit in the second half, and is up to 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting. He has zipped around on defense and been daring with his shot selection; tonight those shots have paid off. 

The Hawks have put the ball in his hands with Young and Huerter off the floor, and Reddish has justified Lloyd Pierce's faith. At various points, he hit Brandon Goodwin with a one-handed pass for a 3 and found Collins with a perfect pocket pass for a layup. He has been a menace in passing lanes with four steals. 

Reddish was dubiously called for an offensive foul in transition, but save for that and an out-of-control drive midway through the fourth quarter, he has exercised good judgment with the ball in his hands. He has been in the game since the middle of the third quarter, and it will be worth watching if he plays the remainder of the game. De'Andre Hunter has not checked back in since heading to the locker room earlier in the game, though he has returned to the bench. Reddish will have to close this game; it's a matter of whether he gets to rest before then. 

Spurs lead 110-103. 

Spurs Making Young a Driver

As expected, San Antonio has tweaked its coverage against Trae Young in the pick-and-roll, bringing Aldridge (and other big men) higher up on the floor to make Young a driver rather than a shooter. The Spurs have helped more aggressively on Collins rolling to the basket as well, and have thus been more effective taking away some of the lobs to the rim the Hawks got in the first quarter. 

Young has been effective nonetheless, but he his shot opportunities have been more scarce. The ball, however, will still be in his hands down the stretch. 

Huerter Gives Hawks the Lead

Kevin Huerter hits a go-ahead 3-pointer with six seconds to play on a nice play design from Lloyd Pierce. The Hawks ran a double-ball screen on the right side with Collins and Hunter setting the picks -- in that order. Rather than rolling, Collins ran to the left corner to screen for Huerter while Hunter popped to the top of the key, took a hard dribble to draw Huerter's man in, and made a swing pass to the corner. 

Some smart switching on the following Spurs possession sealed Atlanta's first win in San Antonio since February of 1997 -- before Huerter was born. 

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