Court Vision: Spurs spoil Hawks’ homecoming with 19-point drubbing

The Atlanta Hawks had trouble getting into a rhythm early on as the San Antonio Spurs jumped out to an early 26-6 lead on the way to a 114-95 win at Philips Arena.

Dale Zanine/Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

ATLANTA — Going inside the Hawks’ 114-95 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday at Philips Arena.

1. An early hole and an out-of-rhythm offense led to doom.

As the teams celebrated Player Heritage Day, Hawks ball handlers were speaking one language while recipients of pass attempts another. That certainly wasn’t the intention of the promotion.

It was bad enough for the Hawks that they had to watch the Spurs jump out to a 26-6 lead early in the game on incredible shooting, but the offensive end of the floor was an unhappy place for Atlanta. The normally symphonic movement and spacing from Atlanta’s offense was absent. In its place was disfunction, jumbled paths to the hoop and horrible passing.

Kyle Korver, who didn’t attempt a shot in the first quarter of his first game back since breaking his nose, was errant with his passes in he early going. After he pulled down a rebound, Korver missed badly on an attempt to connect on a long distance pass to Jeff Teague. Korver missed a peeling-off player after a pick and roll, and cutting players to the basket didn’t get marksman like accuracy on passes from the guard.

"Everybody knows the first game home after a road trip is always a very difficult game," said San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich. "And when you’ve been on the road for 13 days as [the Hawks] were, it usually ends up not being a great game. With Kyle [Korver] coming back and not having his rhythm, they have to get used to him again."

But Korver wasn’t the only Hawks guard out of synch with the rest of the team.

Teague had troubles passing the ball as well. But his issues were more based on apparent indecision, not accuracy. The normally quick-thinking Teague seemed to be double-guessing his decisions, both while passing and shooting. He would add an extra pass to a series that should have ended with Teague going to the rim himself, and then when Teague went to the basket t didn’t look strong, and resulted in missed layups.

Atlanta was guilty of 13 first-half turnovers and finished with 18. Korver and Teague supplied 10 of those miscues as Atlanta’s offense failed to get into any rhythm in the first half. It wasn’t all misery and heartache for the Hawks, however.

Paul Millsap led Atlanta with 22 points and at one point scored 11 straight for the Hawks, which included three 3-pointers. Dennis Schroder poured in 18 points off the bench in a losing effort. And after San Antonio jumped out to that huge 26-6 lead, the Hawks regrouped and led the way 89-88, according to Matt Conti of 92.9 the Game.

2. Mike Budenholzer, for the first time in his coaching career, was ejected.

Arguing with NBA officials is as much art as it is science. And it’s almost 95 percent calculated versus an unintended heat-of-the-moment discussion. Atlanta head coach Mike Budenholzer danced the line between too much and just enough while disputing some non-calls in the third quarter, and got himself tossed from the game.

After Atlanta center Al Horford was harassed under the basket trying to shoot, Budenholzer argued his case to Joey Crawford, the nearest official. Crawford hit him with technical foul, Budenholzer’s second in the first three minutes of the third quarter, and ejected the Hawks coach from the game.

Assistant coach Kenny Atkinson took over and led the Hawks for the final 21 minutes of the game. And the team reacted well to Budenholzer’s outburst.

Atlanta went on an immediate 20-8 run after Budenholzer’s ejection, and the Hawks outscored San Antonio 52-46 while Atkinson was running the show.

3. Schroder continued with his torrid month.

Entering the season, Schroder’s second in the NBA, the 6-foot-1-inch guard had only two career game where he’d reached double figures in scoring. He played in 49 contests a season ago.

Now as Schroder just finished his 68th game of the 2014-15 season, he’s only failed to reach double digits in two of his last 13 games. His ascension to the ranks of big-time scorer for the Hawks has been swift, and the second-year pro added 18 points off the bench against the Spurs on Sunday.

The month of March has been special for Schroder. In 11 games he’s averaged 14.9 points per game, and he notched his third double-double of the season. He’s scored 164 points this month (his best career month) and still has five games left to play before April arrives.

Schroder isn’t just growing as a scorer though. His entire game is improving.

With a much better grasp of Budenholzer’s system, Schroder has been able to work the offense much more efficiently than ever. He can thrive as the point guard making things happen, or as a second guard to Teague when both are on the floor. He’s also learning exactly how spacing works and utilizing his knowledge of where everyone should be to dish the ball better and offer more scoring opportunities.

Schroder added five assists on Sunday, putting him at 64 for the month of March. That’s also a career high mark.

4: The Hawks have given up at least 100 points to each of their last four opponents: Sacramento, Golden State, Oklahoma City and now San Antonio. Over those last four games, Atlanta is 1-3. The Hawks are 14-14 when opponents score 100 points or better.

7: Atlanta shot just seven free throws on Sunday, tied for it’s lowest output of the season. On a good note, the Hawks hit all seven. But the team did not get to the charity stripe nearly enough against the Spurs.

"The first quarter got away from us. We tried to play catch-up basketball, and against a team like that it’s hard to do that. You can’t build yourself a big hole and then expect to … we fought, I liked our energy. They were just clicking." — Horford on letting San Antonio jump out to a 26-6 lead.