Grades: San Antonio Spurs vs. Atlanta Hawks – Game #71

It was a tale of two halves for the San Antonio Spurs against Dejounte Murray and the Atlanta Hawks. When all was said and done, the Spurs had tallied an impressive 126-118 victory to improve to 19-52 on the season. The Hawks dropped to 35-36 with the loss.

At the end of the first quarter, Atlanta had a 40-34 advantage. San Antonio’s defense went from bad to worse in the second quarter. Entering intermission, the Hawks had a 83-61 advantage. To say the Spurs were bad at defense in the first half would be an understatement. They weren’t competing at all on that end and allowed Murray and the Hawks to accomplish whatever it was they wanted to do. 

Thankfully, the second half was completely different. Clint Capela scored the first basket of the second half to give the Hawks a 24-point advantage. However, that’s when Devin Vassell took over. He scored eight straight points to spark a 10-0 run. San Antonio’s defense cranked it up about five or six levels and the good guys were able to outscore the bad guys 39-20 in the third quarter to get right back into the game.

With 7:30 remaining in the fourth quarter, Murray hit a jumper to put the Hawks up by six points, 114-108. That’s when the Spurs took over. San Antonio scored the game’s next 16 points and kept the Hawks scoreless for nearly six minutes. During that stretch, the Spurs were playing some of their best basketball of the season. The decision-making and sharing of the ball was great on offense. Defensively, the hustle and the weakside attentiveness were as alive as we’ve witnessed all year long.

One game after blowing a 29-point lead against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Spurs erased that memory by climbing out of a 24-point hole versus the Hawks. San Antonio played awesome in the second half on both ends of the court. Pro-tankers won’t love the win but, personally, I’m not complaining about a victory in Murray’s return to San Antonio (especially with all the junk he has talked since he left). The win is also good for morale after the disheartening collapse against the Grizzlies.

Spurs vs. Hawks – Final Grades

spurs hawks

Keldon Johnson

Starting at power forward in the absence of Jeremy Sochan, Johnson did really well. His defense was bad in the first half but was really effective in the second half. He had seven of his team-high 12 rebounds in the final two quarters, which were all very much needed due to San Antonio’s small starting lineup. Offensively, Johnson was fearless and efficient. He hit a couple threes, drove the ball to the rim with bravado and ruthlessness, and made the passes he needed to make. There were possessions here and there where Johnson’s decision-making could have been better … but for the most part he was great. His passion and enthusiasm were invaluable in the victory.

Grade: A

Devin Vassell

After last game, I wrote that Vassell was due for a breakout performance. Well, his performance against the Hawks was definitely a breakout performance. On offense, he was deadly. He hit 12-of-17 shots from the field and 5-for-8 from three-point range. When he wasn’t shooting a bomb from deep, he was getting to the basket and finishing with flair. Vassell was the most unguardable player on the court, without question. Defensively, I was almost as impressed. He got off to a little bit of a slow start on that end but got better and better. By the fourth quarter, he was flying around the court and playing perhaps his best defense of the season. Vassell has really good potential on both ends of the court and we were able to see that versus Atlanta.

Grade: A+

Zach Collins

Collins was mostly invisible in the first half. He wasn’t taking advantage of his touches on offense and he was going through the motions on defense. Whatever was said to him at halftime was well-received because he was a completely different player in the second half. Collins scored 15 of his 19 points after intermission on 6-for-8 shooting from the floor. Defensively, he did a great job of protecting the rim. His athleticism and bravery were game-changing attributes in the paint, particularly in the fourth quarter.

Grade: A

Tre Jones

I wasn’t too impressed with Jones on Sunday afternoon. The Hawks were helping off of him constantly and he wasn’t able to make them pay. His passing was decent but there wasn’t much high-level playmaking going on. Defensively, the Hawks looked to attack him early and often and Jones wasn’t able to do much. Murray, in particular, had his way with Jones when the two were matched up.

Grade: C

Malaki Branham

It wasn’t a typical Branham-like affair. Offensively, he scored only seven points on 3-for-10 shooting from the floor in 26 minutes. His passing wasn’t special and he had trouble shooting over the rangy Hawks squad. That said, Branham was able to salvage a lot of his value by playing the best defense of his rookie season in the second half of the ballgame. He was locked in and showed a level of defensive ability that I didn’t know he had in him. 

Grade: B-

Romeo Langford

Langford was okay-ish. He hustled on defense — even in the first half when most of his teammates were standing around doing not much of anything. Offensively, Langford was assertive and found ways to produce. Long-term, he’s going to have to be more than just an opportunistic scorer but, for now, that was good enough against the Hawks.

Grade: B

Sandro Mamukelashvili

Mamukelashvili was really efforting on both ends of the court. Defensively, his slow feet were an issue at times but his physicality and relentlessness made up for it most of the time. Offensively, he was crashing the glass and passing the rock extremely well. For a big, it’s already clear he’s far above average in terms of court vision and passing instincts. Mamukelashvili didn’t shoot the best but he remained confident even when the basketball wasn’t cooperating.

Grade: B

Blake Wesley

Wesley only hit two shots but they were the two most important shots of the game. No hyperbole. He made a difficult layup to give the Spurs the lead with 3:47 remaining. Then, on the next possession, the rookie drained a three-pointer to put the Spurs up by four points. Wesley exhibited a lot of guts just shooting those two shots. The fact he made both was one of the best stories of the victory. Besides those two big shots, I loved Wesley’s defense. He picked up the Hawks guards early and harassed them as much as he physically could. Wesley’s world-class speed with the ball also translates to the defensive end, it appears. If that’s indeed the case, that raises his ceiling as a basketball player quite a bit.

Grade: A-

Julius Champagnie

Champagnie clearly had his best game as a member of the Spurs. In the first half, his self-assuredness kept the Spurs within earshot of the Hawks. Champagnie didn’t hesitate to fire away when he found himself open. His shooting stroke looks great and he even illustrated some explosiveness on drives to the basket. Champagnie also made the right passes and played adequate defense.

Grade: A-

Keita Bates-Diop

Bates-Diop was questionable with achilles soreness. In hindsight, he probably shouldn’t have played. He wasn’t moving well on either end. Bates-Diop ended up not attempting a shot in 12 minutes but still managed to tally two turnovers.

Grade: D+


Pop did great work. I loved how he put Wesley out there in the guts of the game. He showed confidence in Branham on both ends. Letting Mamukelashvili and Champagnie get legitimate minutes was also nice, as was not overly relying on the starters. Pop’s message at halftime was obviously one the players listened to because the Spurs came out of the gates in the third quarter looking like a completely different team.

Grade: A