The Spurs are still the gold standard for the Hawks.
The Hawks measured up with an overtime victory in Atlanta on Jan. 1 that snapped an 11-game overall losing streak to the Spurs. However, the Hawks are still at a decided disadvantage away from home, as they have lost 19 consecutive games at the Spurs following Monday’s 107-99 defeat.
The Hawks last win in San Antonio came Feb. 15, 1997. Consider this:
* Hawks legend Dominique Wilkins played in the game — as a member of the Spurs — in the final season of his Hall of Fame career.
* The Hawks have never won at the AT&T Center, which opened in 2002.
* Tim Duncan just concluded a 19-year career having never lost a home game to the Hawks. Nor have Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
* Bill Clinton was President of the United States and has since been followed by George W. Bush (two terms), Barack Obama (two terms) and Donald Trump.
* Un-Break My Heart by Toni Braxton was the No. 1 single that week.
“The Spurs are a very good team,” Kent Bazemore said after the Hawks’ latest loss. “They have 18 consecutive years of 50-plus wins. They know how to win. That’s what we are striving for, to compete every year and compete for a long time. There is a lot we can learn from them.”
There is some solace in the way the Hawks have played in San Antonio of late. Maybe.
The Hawks lost by 20 points last season. However, four of the past five losses have come by a combined 21 points, including Monday’s eight-point defeat. There were two two-point losses.
The Hawks trailed by as many as 15 points before a fourth-quarter rally pulled them within a point, 86-85, with eight minutes remaining. The Spurs would not be denied with a rally of their own.
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer, in his fourth season with the Hawks, was a part of many of those Spurs’ home-court wins by spending 19 years in the organization. He brought a similar philosophy and playing style with him.
“To come in here and compete against these guys is great,” Budenholzer said. “They test you in a lot of ways. Their spacing. Their shooting. Their driving. … For our group to get down after a couple of rough stretches and able to come back and get within one point. A couple of shots here or there. But that’s the game. They made a few more plays than us, a few more shots than us. I’m mostly proud of the guys the way they competed.”
Paul Millsap saw the positives, but in the end it was still the latest in a growing list of defeats.
“A loss is a loss,” Millsap said. “At the end of the day we have to do better down the stretch, especially in their building.”
The loss dropped the Hawks (37-30) two games behind the Raptors for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. They had a chance to move back to a season-high nine games over .500. While the Spurs have clinched a 20th consecutive playoff appearance, the Hawks are on the verge of their 10th consecutive postseason, both the longest active streaks in the Western and Eastern Conferences respectively. The Spurs have five NBA championships since the winning streak began. The Hawks have none.
“Still learning,” Bazemore said. “Still growing. It didn’t come out the way we wanted. A few more shots go down and I think it’s a totally different outcome. I like where we are. The effort is there. We are still playing hard. We are going to continue to fight. I really feel good about this team and the season we’ve had, grinding to get wins every night, come playoff time that’s going to help us out. Things are looking up.”