Preview: Hawks vs. Spurs
After getting their first Summer League win last night, the Hawks are right back at it tonight against the Spurs at 10 p.m. on NBA TV.
While there was significant improvement between games one and two for Atlanta, there’s still plenty to work on for tonight’s third and final game of pool play before the tournament starts Wednesday. One of those areas is rebounding. A dominant fourth quarter for the Hawks Friday made the stat sheet appear more even than it was for much of the game in the rebounding department, but the Heat were able to control the glass for much of yesterday’s game. Quin Snyder elected not to use 7’3″ Boban Marjanovic last night, so I would expect him to get minutes tonight against San Antonio. That should help.
Active hands was another improvement for Atlanta. After forcing just 11 Los Angeles turnovers Friday, the Hawks smothered Miami, forcing 30 last night. I’ll be looking for them to build upon that team defense tonight.
And finally, free throw shooting. I know rust can be an issue in the summer, but the Hawks are just 15-30 (50%) from the line through two games. After the struggles the team had from the line last season (fifth worst in the NBA), Danny Ferry is probably cringing at seeing it play out again this summer.
As for the Spurs, they also sit at 1-1 with a very close win over a good Charlotte Bobcats summer team, and a close loss to Toronto yesterday.
Leading the way has been second-round draft pick Deshaun Thomas, the athletic 6’7″ wing man from Ohio State who helped lead the Buckeyes to consecutive Elite Eight appearances. Thomas has a good all-around game. He can shoot if left open (59 percent this summer), he can attack the rim and can finish inside. He does some posting up as well as some driving, so he’s a tough matchup for anyone because of his versatility.
Cory Joseph, who backed up Tony Parker toward the end of last season, leads the team in points and minutes played so far. He had a sweet game-winner against the Bobcats on Friday and is capable of creating his own shot. Hawks newly-hired assistant coach Taylor Jenkins, who is in Las Vegas assisting Snyder, coached Joseph in the D-League last year, so he should be familiar with Joseph’s tendencies. Joseph has been a score-first guy this summer, so getting the ball out of his hands will be the primary goal for Dennis Schröder and Shelvin Mack tonight.
Another Texas guy, Dexter Pittman, is sharing time with Washington State big man Aron Baynes at center. Baynes moves a little bit better than Pittman, but neither of them are quick. If we can keep them off the offensive glass, I expect Lucas Nogueira and Mike Muscala to have some opportunities in transition if they can get down the floor. For big men, both are having bad shooting summers. Baynes is at 41 percent, while Pittman is just over 12.
As a team, San Antonio is handing out just 10 assists per game this summer, which is surprising consider Gregg Popovich’s system created the most assists of any team in the NBA last season. The Hawks, by comparison, have averaged 18.5 through two games. While I haven’t seen the Spurs play in person yet, that low number tells me they like to do a lot of 1-on-1. That was Thomas’s style in college, so the Hawks should be focused on forcing him and the others to make the extra pass.
Coach Bud is very familiar with how San Antonio operates its Summer League teams, so that could be a useful advantage for the Hawks tonight.
Because Atlanta earned five points (winning five quarters) out of a possible eight so far, they are almost surely guaranteed a first-round bye if they win tonight. A win would mean no fewer than six points with a 2-1 record, which in turn means two days off before Thursday’s second round bracket game. A loss, meanwhile, and they’re almost assured of playing in a play-in game Wednesday.