(The Sports Xchange) - Defense is usually an aspect that San Antonio rounds into form as the year progresses but through their first 17 games the Spurs are ahead of schedule, a sign of trouble for the rest of the NBA.
Forward Kawhi Leonard poured in 22 points and six San Antonio players scored in double-figures as the Spurs waylaid the Atlanta Hawks 108-88 on Saturday to remain undefeated at home.
Leonard, who did most of his damage with 15 points in the first half, led the Spurs in scoring for the sixth straight game. San Antonio (14-3) is 9-0 at the AT&T Center this season and has won 11 of its past 12 contests overall. They are entrenched atop the NBA Western Conference’s Southwest Division.
The Spurs have limited opponents to 88 points or less in 11 times this year and to an average of 83.4 points per game in their current five-game winning streak.
“We usually build as a team defensively, but this year we’ve started out very aggressively,” Spurs reserve guard Manu Ginobili said.
“We’ve always tried to play defense like this, and we are running back into transition better. We are much improved - now we’ve got to sustain it.”
Forward LaMarcus Aldridge and reserve guard Patty Mills added 13 points apiece for San Antonio, while Ginobili scored 12 points, guard Tony Parker hit for 11 points and forward Tim Duncan tallied 10 points and grabbed a season-high 18 rebounds.
Atlanta (11-8, second place in the Eastern Conference’s Southeast Division) was led by reserve forward Mike Scott’s 12 points.
“The defense was the key,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “Tony (Parker) and Danny Green were great defensively on (Atlanta guards Jeff) Teague and (Kyle) Korver and that really set the tone for us. Those guys are really hard to guard, but they took the challenge tonight.”
Atlanta led 30-25 before the Spurs took command. Ginobili scored all eight of his first-half points in a 4:02 stretch that helped San Antonio move to a 41-32 advantage that grew to 54-37 by halftime. The Spurs outscored Atlanta 31-12 in the second quarter.
“At times we had good looks and you have to take advantage of your good looks against a team like the Spurs,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said.
“They pressure the ball well, run you off the three-point line and rebound well. They do a lot of the little things to be one of the top defensive teams in the league.”
(The story corrects spelling of Ginobili in fifth paragraph)
Editing by Patrick Johnston