AT&T CENTER–Through large portions of the game the Atlanta Hawks had Johan Petro and Anthony Tolliver defending Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard. If you knew nothing else about this game, that should be enough to explain the San Antonio Spurs 99-97 victory.
Need more analysis? Unfortunately there isn't much else positive to take away from this win. That Tim Duncan can still carry a team on his back with 31 points, 14 rebounds, four blocks and three assists is a remarkable feat. The fact that he had to against an Atlanta Hawks team missing Devin Harris, Al Horford, Kyle Korver, and Josh Smith is distressing.
"Tim Duncan saved us. He's such a professional. We're so lucky to have him here for as long as we have," Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said. "He was the ultimate professional and he rose above a lot to do it.
"We had some guys that hadn't played much that busted their butts. But in general, other than Timmy, in a lot of ways it was a pathetic performance. That kind of play isn't going to get us very far at the end of the season. And it's not the first time we've played like that in the last few weeks. This team needs to get its head around itself and understand what it takes to be there, because as a group they don't have it right now."
If the team needs an understanding of what it takes, it needs to look no further than its leader. Duncan had nearly his entire offensive repertoire at his disposal tonight, dropping in turnaround jumpers, jab-and-go drives, drop steps, jumpers, and even a dunk or two for good measure.
Over the past 10 games Duncan is putting up roughly 22 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks and three assists in 32 minutes. He again anchored the defense with four blocks, holding afloat a defense that Popovich said has slid over the course of the past two months.
"I have my shot back now, it feels good," Duncan said. "I feel good all around, I feel healthy. I'm running well, playing without pain, and my shot is going in."
Second-year forward Kawhi Leonard joined Duncan, scoring his second consecutive 20-point game with 23 points on an efficient 7-10 shooting from the field and 7-8 from the free throw line.
Outside of that, the Spurs got a decent stretch from DeJuan Blair (11 points, seven rebounds) and some rare shot-blocking (four!) from Matt Bonner.
The bench lost track of reserves Mike Scott (22 points, finding open jumpers available as he pleased), John Jenkins (23 points), and allowed Shelvin Mack to dissect their defense with 12 points and eight assists.
"The chemistry is not where it needs to be, where it usually is," Danny Green said. "We've had a lot of injuries, a lot of guys in and out. The chemistry is just off right now and we're not playing up to our standards defensively.
"We need to trust each other, that's the biggest thing when it comes to defense, trusting each other and communicating with each other. Good defensive teams play on a string, as Timmy would say, and trust each other, have each other's back regardless of what happens."
The game was at times sloppy and listless. The sharpness present in the Spurs execution through most of the season has dulled as injuries have sapped their strengths.
"There's a lot we need to do, a lot we need to work on," Stephen Jackson said. "I think a game like this, no disrespect to the Hawks, we should win by a bigger margin."