Spurs' defense overpowers Hawks in 103-78 win

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ATLANTA (AP) — The most dominant defensive half by an NBA team this season earned only a dismissive shrug from San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich.

Kawhi Leonard scored 22 points and the Spurs allowed only 25 first-half points in beating the Atlanta Hawks 103-78 on Saturday night.

The Spurs led 47-25 at halftime. The Hawks' total — 13 points in the first quarter, 12 in the second — was the lowest for any NBA team in any half this season, according to STATS. The previous low was Houston's 26 second-half points on Nov. 1 at Miami.

Popovich seemed unimpressed as he described the rout as "one of those NBA games."

"We had a good night, they had a poor night," Popovich said. "That's all it is."

San Antonio has had far more good nights than most teams.

The Spurs (20-5) improved the NBA's second-best record. They have been overshadowed by the Golden State Warriors, who lost for the first time this season on Saturday night at Milwaukee.

Asked before the game if the Spurs are playing under the radar, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer, a former longtime Spurs assistant, said "Sounds like every year."

Budenholzer suggested Popovich might prefer to avoid the spotlight, but that could become increasingly difficult. The addition of LaMarcus Aldridge, who had 13 points, has provided more scoring balance with Leonard and Manu Ginobili, who had 17 points.

"We've got a lot of weapons now," Ginobili said.

Defense may be the biggest weapon for the Spurs, who have won six of seven.

"I don't think you can play for coach Pop if you don't play defense," said Tony Parker, who led the effort against Hawks point guard Jeff Teague. "As long as Pop is happy, that's always been my goal."

Paul Millsap led Atlanta with 22 points, including 17 in the third quarter. No other Hawks player scored in double figures.

"It was tough," Millsap said. "I felt like we overthought everything on offense. ... We got caught into their game and nothing good happened with that."

Teague scored only four points, all on free throws, to go with three assists and five turnovers.

The Spurs have won 11 straight in the series since their last loss to the Hawks on March 21, 2010.

Atlanta recovered from its first-half scoring funk to score 30 points in the third quarter — and still lost ground. The Spurs had 32 points in the period.

"Offensively we kind of caught a rhythm in the second half, but it was too late," Budenholzer said.


Budenholzer said it always seems the Spurs rest top players the game before playing Atlanta. Sure enough, Parker was held out of Friday night's 109-87 win over the Lakers. Ginobili played only five minutes.

Budenholzer joked there will be a price to pay for Popovich. "I'm not going to take his calls anymore," he said before the game.

Popovich, told of Budenholzer's comment, twisted the knife a little. "He's just paranoid," Popovich said. "He coached with me too long. He just assumes that's what's going on. He doesn't really know."


The 25 points was Atlanta's low for a first half since scoring 20 points at Chicago on Jan. 14, 2013. The Hawks' previous low for a first half this season was 37 in their 108-88 loss at San Antonio on Nov. 28.


Spurs: San Antonio began the night leading the NBA with its average of 88.6 points allowed. ... The Spurs improved to 9-1 in back-to-back games this season. ... Tim Duncan had four points and 10 rebounds. Danny Green had 10 points.

Hawks: F Mike Scott was held out with a left knee contusion. ... A review confirmed Kyle Korver's 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter came just after time expired.


Spurs: Host Utah on Monday.

Hawks: Host Miami on Monday.

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