Spurs' defense overpowers Hawks in 103-78 win

ATLANTA (AP) Kawhi Leonard scored 22 points and the San Antonio Spurs allowed only 25 first-half points in the strongest defensive effort by any NBA team this season in beating the Atlanta Hawks 103-78 on Saturday night.

The Spurs led 47-25 at halftime. The Hawks' total - 13 points in the first quarter, 12 in the second - was the lowest for any NBA team in any half this season, according to STATS. The previous low was Houston's 26 second-half points on Nov. 1 at Miami.

Manu Ginobili had 17 points and LaMarcus Aldridge added 13 for San Antonio, which has won six of seven.

Paul Millsap led Atlanta with 22 points, including 17 in the third quarter. No other Hawks player scored in double figures.

The Hawks' previous low for a first half this season was 37 in their 108-88 loss at San Antonio on Nov. 28. The 25 points was Atlanta's low for the first half since scoring 20 points at Chicago on Jan. 14, 2013.

The Spurs have won 11 straight in the series since their last loss to the Hawks on March 21, 2010.

Atlanta recovered from its first-half scoring funk to score 30 points in the third quarter - and still lost ground. The Spurs had 32 points in the period.

The Spurs (20-5) improved the NBA's second-best record, even if they have been overshadowed by the undefeated Golden State Warriors.

Asked before the game if the Spurs are playing under the radar, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer, a former longtime Spurs assistant, said ''Sounds like every year.''

The Hawks' only lead was 1-0 after Millsap made one of two free throws. The Spurs had the lead in double digits by the end of the period and then stretched it with a dominant second quarter, when the Hawks shot only 4 of 18.


Budenholzer said it always seems the Spurs rest top players the game before playing Atlanta. Sure enough, point guard Tony Parker was held out of Friday night's 109-87 win over the Lakers. Ginobili played only five minutes.

Budenholzer joked there will be a price to pay for his former boss, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.

''I'm not going to take his calls anymore,'' he said before the game.

Popovich, told of Budenholzer's comment, twisted the knife a little. ''He's just paranoid,'' Popovich said. ''He coached with me too long. He just assumes that's what's going on. He doesn't really know.''


Spurs: San Antonio began the night leading the NBA with its average of 88.6 points allowed. ... The Spurs improved to 9-1 in back-to-back games this season. ... Tim Duncan had four points and 10 rebounds. Danny Green had 10 points.

Hawks: F Mike Scott was held out with a left knee contusion. An MRI was clear, but Budenholzer said ''he's just not really there so I think it's kind of a day-to-day thing.'' ... A review confirmed Kyle Korver's 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter came just after time expired.


Spurs: Host Utah on Monday.

Hawks: Host Miami on Monday.