Hawks’ Budenholzer seeks first win against former boss
ATLANTA — Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer will never admit it publicly, but the one regular-season win he would like more than any other would be against San Antonio.
Budenholzer, who was the San Antonio staff for 19 seasons, is a disciple of Spurs coach Greg Popovich. He runs the same offensive system, stresses the team aspect and demands his players work hard on defense.
But since he took the Atlanta job in 2013, Budenholzer has not been able to beat his mentor. Atlanta is 0-6 against the Spurs in Budenholzer’s four seasons on the bench. He gets another crack on Sunday when the Hawks host the Spurs at Philips Arena. San Antonio has won the last 11 games against Atlanta.
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“We’ve got another tough team ahead of us,” Atlanta forward Paul Millsap said. “We’ve got to get to work and come out and take care of business like we did (against Detroit).”
Both Atlanta and San Antonio enter the game on a winning streak. Atlanta (17-16) has won two straight after its 105-98 victory over Detroit on Friday. San Antonio (27-6) has won four straight after its 110-94 victory over Portland on Friday.
Atlanta’s last win put the Hawks above .500 for the first time since Nov. 30. It was a ray of hope for a team that slumped badly after an unexpected 9-2 start.
“We wanted to finish this part of the season and head into the New Year right,” Atlanta center Dwight Howard said. “We’ve got two good home wins and we’re hoping to get one more.”
San Antonio hopes to get Kawhi Leonard back for the game. The forward, who averages 24.4 points, has missed the last two games with a stomach virus. The Spurs said Leonard is questionable.
Even if Leonard can’t go, the Spurs can bank on forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who averages 17.3 points and 7.1 rebounds. Aldridge has scored in double figures in 27 of 30 games, but he had only eight against the Trail Blazers.
San Antonio’s depth makes it a difficult team to put away. The Spurs have trailed in the second half of their last three games.
“The slow starts have cost us some games this year,” San Antonio center Pau Gasol said. “We have to do a better job of coming out with more of an edge to the game.”
The Hawks and Spurs have a return game on March 13 in San Antonio.