Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Atlanta Hawks – Game #46

After a difficult start to their nine-game homestand, the San Antonio Spurs have to hope that they’ve finally found their footing. Last night, the Spurs impressed in a 120-106 victory over the Sacramento Kings. This evening, they take on the Atlanta Hawks in a back-to-back affair.

The Spurs, with a record of 24-21, are the eighth seed in the Western Conference. They are half a game behind the Dallas Mavericks and two games ahead of the Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies.

The Hawks have lost four out of their last five games. However, prior to that, they had won eight straight contests. As it stands, Atlanta is 23-24, which is good enough for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference.

San Antonio Spurs Injury Update

Gorgui Dieng suffered a sprained shoulder 91 seconds into his Spurs debut. He’s out for at least tonight’s game against the Hawks. San Antonio has yet said how long they expect Dieng to be sidelined.

Despite being listed as probable a couple days ago, Lonnie Walker IV will remain out for the Spurs. He reportedly had difficulty warming up for the Kings game due to an injured wrist. Walker should be back soon — but he’s not quite ready.

Trey Lyles reportedly hurt his ankle in a recent practice and he’ll remain out for tonight’s game. Keita Bates-Dip is also still out with a pulled hamstring.

Atlanta Hawks Injury Update

The Hawks are dealing with their own set of injuries. John Collins, the star forward out of Wake Forest, is out against the Spurs due to a sprained ankle and bone bruise. He’s expected to miss at least one week.

De’Andre Hunter, an up-and-coming second-year forward, is questionable for tonight’s game against the Spurs. Also sidelined for the Hawks are Cam Reddish (sore Achilles) and Kris Dunn (ankle surgery).

Jakob Poeltl’s Free Throw Shooting

Last night, the Kings went to a Hack-a-Jak strategy in the fourth quarter and Jakob Poeltl responded by airballing two consecutive free throws. Soon after that, head coach Gregg Popovich yanked him from the game.

Despite becoming a full-time starter for the first time in his career, Poeltl is really struggling at the free throw line this season. The 25-year-old is shooting 38.0% at the line, which is far and away his career-worst accuracy. For his career, he’s a 50.6% free throw shooter. Poeltl’s high water mark was as a sophomore with the Toronto Raptors, when he hit 59.4% from the line.

If Poeltl can’t get back to hitting at least half of his free throws, expect more and more teams to go the Hack-a-Jak route, particularly in fourth quarters. If the Austrian doesn’t respond favorably, that may call into question his long-term viability as a starter for the Spurs.