By KEVIN MALLORY (Special to the Daily World)
Unlike many of their home games this season, the Hawks came out with energy and were ready to play against visiting San Antonio on April 5.
However, the Spurs, the team with the best record in the NBA, proved their mettle by winning the hard-fought, grind-it-out game, 97-90.
Although the Hawks suffered the loss, they were able to clinch the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference by virtue of Philadelphia’s loss to the Boston Celtics. Atlanta defeated Boston on April 1, 88-83, after being down by as many as 12 in the third quarter. The Hawks will face the No. 4 seed Orlando Magic in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
Against San Antonio, Joe Johnson led the Hawks — who were without starting forward Josh Smith due to a knee injury — with 21 points. Jamal Crawford came off the bench to chip in 20.
The Hawks took a 46-43 lead into halftime, but could not pull away in a game they controlled for much of the first half. In the second half, the Spurs were able to penetrate into the paint, making easy baskets while the Hawks’ defense collected fouls.
“I thought their speed and quickness started to take a toll on us, particularly in the second half,” said Hawks’ head coach Larry Drew.
“In the fourth quarter, they were in the penalty at the nine-minute mark. That’s a recipe for disaster. We just came up short.”
Tony Parker led the Spurs with 26 points, five rebounds and four assists, and Manu Ginobili tallied 18 points and four assists. Tim Duncan finished with 17 points.
Both Atlanta and San Antonio shot the ball well for the game. The Spurs hit 50 percent of their shots while the Hawks shot nearly 49 percent. Yet, the Spurs were able to pick up their defensive intensity, which allowed for easy baskets.
“I think they picked up the tempo a little bit,” said Hawks center Al Horford, who finished with 12 points, nine rebounds, five assists and two blocks. “It took us out of some things we wanted to run, and how we wanted to do it. They’re just a great defensive team.”
San Antonio out-rebounded Atlanta 39-25 and shot 22-of-26 from the free-throw line compared to 17-of-20 for the Hawks.
The Hawks went 1-2 during the week. Atlanta also fell on the road to the Houston Rockets, 114-109, on April 3 in what was an offensive track meet.
Prior to the game against San Antonio, Hawks forward Marvin Williams was awarded the Jason Collier Memorial Trophy for his dedication to community service.