Atlanta (15-8) at San Antonio (18-3)

By JUSTIN EINHORN, STATS Senior Editor Thursday, Dec 9, 2010 Tipoff: 8:30 pm EST Fri Dec 10, 2010

For the second time in three nights, a team is visiting San Antonio seeking its first win there since February 1997. This one seems to have a much better chance than the last one.

The Atlanta Hawks have quietly been one of the league’s hotter teams and a recent lineup change has been very effective, but they face the league-best Spurs on Friday night in a city where they haven’t won since Tim Duncan’s(notes) arrival.

While San Antonio (18-3) has been overshadowed lately by division rival Dallas’ double-digit winning streak, the Hawks have received little attention in the Eastern Conference as Boston and Miami have put together lengthy runs. Atlanta (15-8) has won seven of eight, the only loss coming at Miami.

No East team has a better road record than the Hawks’ 8-3 mark, but Atlanta has lost all 12 trips to San Antonio since Duncan joined the Spurs in the 1997-98 season.

Golden State’s last win there came Feb. 14, 1997. The struggling Warriors dropped their 25th straight in San Antonio with a 111-94 loss Wednesday.

The Hawks, though, did end a seven-game losing streak in the series with a 119-104 overtime victory March 21. That’s one of San Antonio’s only four losses in the past 23 meetings overall.

It also ended a 15-game run in the series during which Atlanta failed to score more than 95 points. The Hawks are coming off one of their best offensive performances, with season highs of 34 assists and 60.3 percent shooting in a 116-101 win over New Jersey on Tuesday.

Josh Smith(notes) had a season-high 34 points in his second game shifting from power forward to small forward, one night after posting 19 points and 13 rebounds in an 80-74 road win over Southeast Division leader Orlando.

That change allowed center Jason Collins(notes) to start while Al Horford(notes) switched back to power forward. Marvin Williams(notes) was moved to the backcourt to replace an ineffective Maurice Evans(notes), who was filling in for Joe Johnson(notes).

Atlanta is 4-1 since Johnson was lost to an elbow injury.

“We’re just trying to hold down the fort until Joe returns,” Smith said after going 14 of 16 from the field with seven assists Tuesday.

The Spurs are relatively healthy, and a good balance offensively has keyed their current three-game win streak. At least five players scored in double figures in each victory.

Duncan had only eight points Wednesday but was among nine Spurs to score at least seven, and no starter played more than 29 minutes for a second straight game.

“Well hopefully we’re putting something in the bank when we need guys to play 38 or 42 minutes,” coach Gregg Popovich said.

The Spurs are 3-0 on a six-game homestand, and the only loss in their last 10 home games came to Dallas.

“We just try to play well at home, win as much games as we can because we know the second part of our schedule is going to be a lot of games on the road,” said guard Tony Parker(notes), averaging 19.2 points at home compared to 14.2 on the road.

Backcourt mate Manu Ginobili(notes) has been struggling, averaging 12.8 points and 29.3 percent shooting in four games this month, but he scored 38 in the last matchup with Atlanta.

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