The San Antonio Spurs got their stifling defense back on track with a win over one of the NBA’s best teams in their last outing. Now they’ll look to match that effort against one of the worst.
The Spurs go for their ninth straight home victory over the slumping Atlanta Hawks when the teams meet for the first time this season on Sunday.
After allowing a season-high 114 points in a defeat to Milwaukee on Tuesday, San Antonio (22-8) rebounded with a 106-83 win over Northwest Division-leading Utah on Thursday. The Spurs blocked eight shots, their second-best mark this season, and forced 17 turnovers.
“It’s a starting point,” forward Tim Duncan said. “We realized our mistakes last game and we understand that defensively we are a much better ball club and I thought we gave that effort (Thursday). That effort and that focus is what we are going to need.”
San Antonio is allowing just 91.1 points per game, one of the league’s best marks, and has given up 100 or more points only four times this season. The Spurs, though, have not had a problem hitting that number themselves, scoring more than 100 points in six of their last seven games.
Point guard Tony Parker led that attack Thursday with 22 points while Duncan added 20 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots. Duncan is averaging 22.0 points during his career against the Hawks, but had his worst performance in their last meeting, scoring 12 in a 94-84 loss on Dec. 10, 2005.
These teams split two matchups last season, but the Spurs have won eight straight meetings in San Antonio by an average of 21.5 points.
San Antonio is concluding a three-game homestand while Atlanta (9-19) is continuing a three-game road trip after losing the opener 94-68 to Houston on Friday. The Hawks were held to a season low in points on just 34.7 percent shooting and failed to make a 3-pointer for the first time this year, going 0-for-11 from beyond the arc.
“There’s no scientific thing about it,” said Hawks reserve Josh Childress, who scored a team-high 15 points in his second game back after missing 19 with a foot injury. “You’ve got to make shots. We’re even missing layups. That just physically and mentally drains you. I wish there was a pill we could take to make us more confident.”
Atlanta has lost a season-high six straight and 10 of its last 11 contests. The Hawks are scoring 93.6 points per game this season, one of the lowest averages in the NBA, but have recorded only 75.0 over the last three games.
Joe Johnson, the Hawks’ leading scorer with 26.3 points per game, is averaging just 11.0 in those three contests. He may have trouble improving that mark Sunday as he is averaging 11.4 points during his career against San Antonio — his second-lowest mark versus any opponent.
The Hawks have been without guard Tyronn Lue (groin) for six consecutive games and Lorenzen Wright (left calf) also sat out Friday. The Spurs are recovering from the stomach flu as Manu Ginobili, Brent Barry and Matt Bonner all returned to the court Thursday.