Spurs take down Hawks on road
The San Antonio Spurs, determined to end their recent string of road losses, made a fourth-quarter statement against the Hawks.
Tony Parker scored 26 points and San Antonio moved closer to home-court advantage in the playoffs by ending a four-game road losing streak with a 97-90 win over Atlanta on Tuesday night.
The Spurs led only 81-79 midway through the final period before taking control with an 11-3 run.
''Finally!'' said Parker, who contrasted the Spurs' strong finish with the team's problems in closing out games in their recent six-game losing streak.
''If we don't learn from those, something's wrong with us,'' Parker said.
Manu Ginobili had 18 points and Tim Duncan had 17 for the Spurs, who had been 0-6 on the road against Eastern Conference teams which have clinched playoff berths.
The Spurs began the night 2 1/2 games ahead of the Lakers in the race for the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
San Antonio ended the six-game losing streak with Sunday's home win over Phoenix. The Spurs took a more important step toward home-court advantage through the Western Conference playoffs by taking their first road win in almost three weeks.
''We were a little shaky the last couple weeks,'' Ginobili said. ''But we are still out there and we are optimistic, but yet I don't feel that we are playing our best basketball right now.''
Joe Johnson had 21 points and Jamal Crawford had 20 for the Hawks.
Atlanta's Al Horford said he could see a difference in the Spurs in the final period.
''I think they picked up the tempo a little bit, and it took us out of some things we wanted to run and how we wanted to do it,'' Horford said. ''They're just a great defensive team. They have a lot of guards that just keep attacking you in different ways.''
The Hawks were short-handed on their front line. Forward Josh Smith had swelling in his right knee and was not in uniform. Center Jason Collins did not return after suffering a sprained left ankle late in the first half.
With Smith out, Horford moved to forward as Collins started at center.
The injuries only added to the Hawks' difficulties in stopping the drives to the basket by Parker and Ginobili.
''Both guys did a great job of breaking the defense down and getting into the paint,'' said Hawks coach Larry Drew of Parker and Ginobili. ''We did not do a good job of containing the ball.
''We certainly missed Josh. We missed his energy. We missed his athleticism. Josh has a way of erasing some of our mistakes.''
Zaza Pachulia took over at center for the start of the second half.
The Hawks led 42-31 in the second quarter before the Spurs closed the half with a 12-4 run to trail 46-43 at the break. Parker had 10 points in the third period as San Antonio pulled ahead.
The Spurs outscored the Hawks 31-25 in the final period.
''We obviously did a better job than we've been doing in that regard,'' San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said.
''We started out a little flat, but I thought the defense picked up and we got a little more physical and aggressive and that fueled some of our offense.''
San Antonio led 81-79 when Atlanta's Kirk Hinrich was called for a flagrant one foul against Ginobili, who made both free throws to start the decisive 11-3 run.
Hinrich had 13 points before fouling out. Horford had 12 points and nine rebounds.
Popovich has 795 wins with San Antonio since 1996, matching Red Auerbach's total with Boston from 1950-66. The two are tied for second all time for the most wins with one team, behind Jerry Sloan's 1,127 with the Jazz.
Notes: F Marvin Williams was given the Jason Collier Memorial Trophy before the game for his community service. The award is named for the late Hawks center who died on Oct. 15, 2005. ... The Spurs' last road win came on March 18 at Dallas. ... C Etan Thomas appeared in only his 10th game as the injuries to Smith and Collins stretched the Hawks' bench. ... The Spurs took a 39-25 advantage in rebounds while outscoring the Hawks 46-36 in the paint.