Before Tip-Off: Leonard to defend Johnson, Anderson looking for consistency


Earlier today our own Jeff Garcia pulled a few statistics out in a mini warm-up piece for tonight’s San Antonio Spurs-Atlanta Hawks matchup.JJ

One interesting statistic Garcia highlighted was that the Atlanta Hawks are 9-1 when Joe Johnson scores more than 20 points in a game.

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is aware of Johnson’s scoring ability, “You do your best,” said Popovich, “but he’s going to score.”

After only playing 7:11 minutes in the Spurs’ win over the New Orleans Hornets on Monday, I asked Popovich if rookie Kawhi Leonard would see more time tonight defending Johnson. Popovich responded, “He’ll start out on him.”

In the locker room, I asked Leonard about the task of defending another elite scorer in the NBA like Johnson, Leonard responded, “I’ve just got to go out there and play my toughest defense.”

Popovich, however, would call it another day of learning for the rookie, “Every game will be an education for him.”

I also spoke with Spurs guard James Anderson who finally played in important situations on Monday as he scored four points and posted a +13 in player efficiency in 10 minutes.

Anderson was glad to finally see some minutes, “It felt good being out there on the floor,” said Anderson, “just being able to contribute to the team.”

“I thought those were some productive minutes for me,” continued Anderson.

Thus far, Anderson has only made 6-of-28 three pointers (21%), though he told me his shooting will eventually come. “I felt good,” said Anderson, “missed shots here and there. I feel I can shoot the ball better than I am. I’m not too worried about it.”

The Spurs will need Anderson and his teammates to make their shots tonight as the Hawks have yet to allow an opponent to shoot over 50% this season.