Spurs look to finish strong against Hawks, other sub-.500 teams
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Two teams headed in directions not indicative of their seasons meet Tuesday night when the Atlanta Hawks visit the San Antonio Spurs.
Belying a season in which Atlanta is headed to the draft lottery while San Antonio will participate in the playoffs, the Hawks enter the interconference matchup in the far better form.
Atlanta (28-49) has won four of five, with three of the wins coming against Utah, Philadelphia and Milwaukee.
The win over the Bucks was the most recent, a 136-135 triumph in overtime on Sunday.
Trae Young continued his late bid to overtake Dallas' Luka Doncic in the Rookie of the Year race when he nailed the game-winner against Milwaukee. It capped a 12-point, 16-assist outing, his fifth double-double in the past six games.
Doncic might have created an insurmountable lead earlier in the season, but Young made a push upward in March, outscoring his rival 23.4 points per game to 21.8 and out-assisting him 9.3 to 6.8.
Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk, who has taken heat for dealing Doncic for Young and a future first-round pick on draft day, insisted to reporters recently that he's proud of how things have turned out so far.
"One of the knocks on (Young) coming out was his physical stature, not being a big, strong guy," Schlenk noted. "He's played in every single game this year, and we're hoping that he gets through all 82 games. His numbers just keep getting better as the season goes on."
Young didn't have one of his better games when the Spurs won 111-104 at Atlanta on March 6 in the clubs' only previous meeting this season. He finished with 22 points, but shot 8-for-24 and had only four assists.
The Spurs' LaMarcus Aldridge was the game's leading scorer with 32 points.
While the Hawks have little incentive Tuesday other than to avoid a 50th loss, the Spurs find themselves jockeying for position among the bottom half of the eight teams that have clinched playoff berths in the West.
San Antonio (44-33) dropped into a tie with Oklahoma City (44-33) for the seventh spot as a result of its 113-106 home loss to Sacramento on Sunday.
The defeat not only completed a first-ever season-series sweep for the Kings, but also shackled the Spurs with their 14th loss this season against teams under .500.
Reserve guard Patty Mills cited "appropriate fear" -- or lack thereof -- as a contributing factor to the poor record against some of the league's lightweights.
"Really understanding what appropriate fear is - we haven't done a good job of that this year," Mills told reporters after Sunday's loss. "Knowing we've dropped games that we really should have won. We have (five) games left, but still a great opportunity for us to grow as a group throughout these games. Appropriate fear is a massive part of that growth."
The Spurs finish with four of five games against teams under .500.
San Antonio has beaten Atlanta in 14 of their past 16 meetings.
--Field Level Media
Updated April 1, 2019