Hawks 86, Spurs 77

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ATLANTA (AP)—No one could have seen this coming.

The defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs had won 17 of 18 games. The lowly Atlanta Hawks were coming off three straight embarrassing defeats.

But the roles were reversed Tuesday night as Shareef Abdur-Rahim scored 29 points and the Hawks built a big lead over San Antonio and held on for a surprising 86-77 victory.

“It only takes one win to turn the season around,” said Stephen Jackson, who played perhaps his best game of the season against his former team. “This could be that win.”

There haven’t been many wins for the Hawks this season. They were coming off a 1-5 road trip that ended with a 16-point loss in Sacramento, a 46-point rout by the Los Angeles Lakers and a 21-point defeat to Utah.

“We just needed a win, whether it was the Spurs or a high school team,” Jackson said.

Coach Terry Stotts and his staff made the players sit through a lengthy film session the previous day.

“We watched film for an hour and a half and just looked at our mistakes,” Hawks center Theo Ratliff said. “We can look at it individually, but it’s different when you’re sitting there with the team and they point out what is definitely supposed to happen on plays.”

Atlanta took control against the Spurs with a 14-0 run encompassing the final basket of the first quarter and the first 12 points of the second. The Hawks led by as many as 21 points before settling for a 49-32 lead at halftime.

Abdur-Rahim scored 17 in the opening half.

But Atlanta went cold in the fourth quarter, managing only two points in the first 5 minutes to let San Antonio make a game of it. Abdur-Rahim picked up his fifth foul with 8:52 remaining and had to go to the bench, taking away the Hawks’ primary offensive threat.

The Spurs got as close as 75-73 when Tony Parker put back an offensive rebound in the lane with 2:23 left.

Jason Terry responded with a clutch 3-pointer out of the corner, giving the Hawks some breathing room. Jackson finished off his ex-teammates by hitting a long jumper with 34 seconds remaining, just beating the shot clock.

“That’s what I do—hit big shots,” he said. “That’s how I helped San Antonio win the NBA championship. I just have a knack for hitting big shots.”

Tim Duncan carried much of the load for the Spurs, going 11-of-22 from the field for 28 points. The rest of the team was only 15-of-57, leaving the Spurs at 26-of-79 (32.9 percent) overall.

“We had an opportunity to get back in the game, but we just couldn’t do it down the stretch,” Duncan said. “We were within two points. We had a good chance.”

Atlanta avenged one of its more dismal losses this season—a 114-75 rout by the Spurs on Nov. 21.

“This is the first game we played for each other,” Jackson said. “We helped on defense. We shared the ball. We played like a good team tonight.”

Abdur-Rahim had 10 rebounds and kept working his way to the foul line, where he was 11-of-12.

Jackson, who turned down San Antonio’s contract offer after last season and wound up with a lesser deal in Atlanta, was clearly inspired by a chance to get back at his former team. He had 16 points, nine rebounds and tied a career-high with seven assists.

“I was having fun out there against my old team,” Jackson said. “You have to be up for a game like this.”

Terry added 18 points.

“We tried to fight back,” Parker said,” but it was too late.”

Notes

Spurs G Manu Ginobili is expected to return for Wednesday’s home game against Minnesota. He has missed five games with a strained back. … San Antonio’s four-game winning streak ended, along with an 8-0 run on the road. … After handling the ball well the first three quarters, the Hawks wereplagued by eight turnovers in the final period. They finished with 20.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 San Antonio
T. Duncan T. Duncan
11-22,  28 Pts
9 Rebs, 0 Assists
 Atlanta
S. Jackson S. Jackson
6-17,  16 Pts
9 Rebs, 7 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists