|Spurs hoping for better start against Hawks|
The San Antonio Spurs will be looking for a better start, but a similar finish, than their last game when they square off against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas.
The Spurs bring some momentum into the contest against Atlanta after a 104-101 win over Oklahoma City on Friday. San Antonio, which has won six of its past eight games, nearly got blown out of the water in the first quarter and a half before rallying in the second half for the victory over the Thunder.
That game came down to the final minute, when LaMarcus Aldridge scored on a putback basket and Pau Gasol added two free throws with five seconds remaining before the San Antonio defense denied Oklahoma City a quality shot to tie the contest on a final possession.
Aldridge scored 26 points for the Spurs (10-6) while Danny Green hit for 17 points, Gasol scored 14 points and Kyle Anderson added 10 points.
"It was a fine win," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "Our guys kept their minds on playing basic basketball and things turned their way. Their effort was great and they played a lot smarter in the second half."
San Antonio trailed as many as 23 points in the second quarter before finding its stride, roaring back with a 28-12 run over the final nine minutes of the first half to pull back to within 55-47 at intermission.
Gasol said the Spurs fought back by taking the game one possession at a time.
"That's just what you've got to do," Gasol explained. "That's what it takes to turn a game around when you are down like we were. We knew there was a lot of game left to be played. You start getting into people, things change, things turn around, and all of sudden you have a chance. The team showed a lot of heart, a lot of character, by not giving up."
Atlanta heads to the Alamo City off a 110-99 loss to Boston. The Hawks (3-13) had posted a team-record 46-point win on Wednesday over Sacramento, when they shot 63.3 percent, and Saturday they built a 16-point first-quarter lead against Boston before falling to the Celtics.
Atlanta shot 65 percent in the first quarter and had a 35-20 lead after one quarter. It was the second-most points allowed in a quarter by the Celtics this season. Boston outscored Atlanta 66-49 in the second half and shot 51 percent from the field.
Atlanta (3-13) was led by point guard Dennis Schroder with 23 points and nine assists. Kent Bazemore added 19 points and rookie center John Collins came off the bench to contribute 18 points and seven rebounds.
"Offensively, certainly we didn't have a lot of great possessions, but had several possessions where we'd finish or make a shot in the paint," Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said. "Those are things you have to do from the start to the end. Our transition defense in the third quarter was poor."
Atlanta sits at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings but has played better than its record.
"We can make some big things happen this season," Schroder said. "We just have to stay together as a team."
San Antonio is still without star forward Kawhi Leonard and venerable point guard Tony Parker, who have not played this season because of respective quad injuries.
Forward Luke Babbitt was back in the starting lineup for Atlanta after he left the Sacramento game early with tightness in his back. Forward DeAndre Bembry returned to the lineup after missing 14 games with a fractured right wrist suffered in the season opener against Dallas. Guard Isaiah Taylor suffered a retinal tear to his right eye in practice on Friday and will miss several weeks.
San Antonio has an all-time record of 52-37 against Atlanta, including a 33-12 mark against the Hawks at home. The Spurs have not lost to Atlanta at home since Feb. 15, 1997.