With Tim Duncan given a night off and Manu Ginobili still out with a hamstring injury, Tony Parker took the lead for the San Antonio Spurs.
Parker had 23 points and 12 assists, and the Spurs held off the short-handed Atlanta Hawks, 98-93, on Saturday night for their fourth straight victory.
”Tony is just incredible,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. ”What competitiveness. What a will to win. What a will to carry the team. He’s really fun to watch at both ends of the court. And he’s been doing that all year.”
The Spurs ended a streak of three straight road losses with their first win away from San Antonio since Jan. 2.
Matt Bonner added 17 points, and Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter each had 14 for the Spurs.
Parker had 10 points in the final period as the Spurs held off the Hawks’ comeback. He was effective with his drives and when setting up Splitter on pick-and-roll plays.
”In the fourth quarter, I was trying to be aggressive and take more shots and at the same time still find Tiago on the roll,” Parker said. ”It worked out pretty well tonight.
”That’s what I do best. I go to the paint and try to create, and if I feel comfortable when I go to the basket, I always feel like I can get a shot up. I’ve been doing that my whole life.”
The Hawks began the game with a new depth problem in their backcourt. The problem reached crisis level in the second half.
The Hawks announced about 90 minutes before the game that guard Lou Williams faces season-ending surgery for a torn ACL in his right knee. Williams was hurt Friday at Brooklyn and the tear was found when Williams was examined on Saturday by Dr. Michael Bernot in Atlanta.
Then the Hawks lost guard Devin Harris to a sprained left ankle early in the final period. Harris didn’t return from the locker room after having the ankle taped.
Hawks coach Larry Drew said he had ”no idea” on the severity of Harris’ injury. Harris was hobbling in the locker room after the game, unable to put weight on his left foot.
”We are down to one point guard,” Drew said, referring to Jeff Teague.
”We’re certainly going to have to talk about getting some more bodies in here because we are depleted.”
Josh Smith led the Hawks with 21 points. Kyle Korver, who started at shooting guard, had 19 points and a season-high eight rebounds.
The Spurs led by 12 in the first half but Atlanta kept the game close in the final two periods. A basket by Hawks rookie John Jenkins tied the game at 72-all early in the final period, but Bonner’s basket gave San Antonio the lead for good.
Jenkins made two free throws with 22 seconds remaining to cut the Spurs’ lead to 94-91, but San Antonio beat the Hawks’ full-court press for an easy basket by Splitter.
Drew called Williams’ injury ”devastating” to the team. Williams was third on the team with his average of 14.1 points.
Even though Williams usually came off the bench, his injury affected Drew’s starting lineup. Korver started instead of Harris because Drew said he wasn’t comfortable having both his healthy point guards – Harris and Teague – in the lineup.
Drew said the injury to Harris hurt the Hawks’ comeback attempt.
”It certainly hurt us because I thought at that point we were really getting into a groove and a rhythm with our speed,” Drew said. ”Kyle was making some shots. Josh was doing a good job in attacking the rim. We were active, and we were really getting up and down the floor. We lost Devin, and that kind of let the wind out of our sails a little bit.”
The Hawks have lost eight of 10.
”It happens during the season,” Teague said. ”It just happens to be tough for us right now.”
Al Horford had nine points and 15 rebounds for Atlanta after missing Friday’s loss with a sore left hamstring.
Bonner made all of his three 3-point attempts in the first half as the Spurs led 52-42 at the break. Korver had three 3-pointers in the half for Atlanta.
The Hawks had a strong start to the second half and took a 61-60 lead after Smith drove past Boris Diaw on the baseline. Diaw answered with a basket to start an 8-0 run for the Spurs, who led 72-70 entering the final period.
NOTES: There were fans wearing the colors for both teams in Sunday’s NFC championship game at the Georgia Dome between the San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons. … R&B artist Mary J. Blige was in the crowd. … Popovich, asked before the game why Ginobili is with the team though he is expected to miss at least another week with a left hamstring injury, said ”eye candy.” … Korver has made at least one 3-pointer in a career-high 33 consecutive games, the second-longest streak in Hawks history. Mookie Blaylock had 3s in 42 straight games from March 26, 1996, to Jan. 11, 1997.