Nets try to beat Spurs for the first time in four years

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

One week to go until the All Star Break. Brooklyn was able to break their three game losing streak with a 108-102 win over the Sixers at home on Monday night. The Nets are four games behind division leading Toronto Raptors as of this writing.

Coming into the Barclays Center for this national TV game are the San Antonio Spurs. They're probably a bit tired after beating the Wizards in double overtime game last night in DC. They're second in the first place at 36-13 and are three games behind league leading Oklahoma City. However, the narrative that the Spurs can't beat the elite teams has dogged them all season.

The Nets haven't beaten the Spurs in a while. They last beat the Spurs on March 30, 2010 and have been on the receiving end of some pretty ugly losses, including the disaster from New Year's Eve 2012. This is a rematch from the last New Year's Eve meeting that San Antonio won big.

But they may be in luck, The Spurs announced Thursday that Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili will all be in street clothes at game time and Boris Diaw is questionable with food poisoning.  Kawhi Leonard has been out for weeks with a broken hand.

The season so far

What's been happening with these teams? Let's check the numbers:

Metric

Brooklyn

San Antonio

Record

21-25 36-13

Pace

93.86 96.37

Offensive Efficiency

103.1 107.7

Defensive Efficiency

105.3 99.9

Offensive Rebounding percentage

22.4 22.3

Turnover rate

15.4 15.2

Assist rate

16.7 19.1

Rebound rate

47.8 50.3

Free throw rate

31.8 23.8

Effective Field Goal percentage

50.1 54

Opponent Effective Field Goal percentage

50.7 48.4

It looks like the Nets are back at 100 percent (relatively speaking of course). After they all missed the Philadelphia game on Monday, the trio of Andray Blatche, Andrei Kirilenko and Joe Johnson are all expected to play.

Against a tired opponent missing their star point guard, Deron Williams should be in line for a huge evening. He had a decent game against Philadelphia on Monday & in truth hasn't been as bad as perceived this year. With Parker out, Williams will be dealing with the much improved Patty Mills.

Like the Nets, the Spurs have been dealing with injuries as well. Star forward Kawhi Leonard has been out since breaking his hand against Oklahoma City on January 23. Manu Ginobili strained his hamstring against the Rockets on January 29 and is out for 3-4 weeks. Tony Parker only played 19 minutes against Washington due to lower back tightness and has already been ruled out of this game. And with this being the second night of a back-to-back and the fact that he played 40 minutes last night, Tim Duncan will sit this one out. All of that aside, it's not like the Spurs are just gonna roll over without their Big Three. Just ask the Golden State Warriors.

One thing the Nets need to be wary of is San Antonio's three point shooting. The Spurs are leading the league in three point efficiency at 39.4 percent. Their attack from deep is led by new acquisition Marco Belinelli. He's been having the best season of his career coming off the bench, averaging about 11 points a game in 25 minutes of action. Where's he been most valuable has been from behind the arc, hitting on 44.3 percent of his three point attempts. Along with Marco, who'll be making his first appearance in Barclays Center since Game 7 of the Bulls series last year, Danny Green and Matt Bonner have been solid from deep as well. Green is having a down season compared to his previous three, but 37 percent from three point range is still pretty good and he's always a bet to go off at any time. Green had been out due to a broken hand, but is coming off a great game against Washington. Throughout the season, when Brooklyn has struggled, it's been in large part due to their three point defense. They've been better lately, but on the whole teams have shot 38.1 percent from three against them (I should also note that the Spurs are right behind them).

Not having Duncan & Leonard in this game will certainly help Brooklyn on the glass. The Nets have been the third worst rebounding team in the league and their lack of success on the glass has cost them some games.

Player to watch: Boris Diaw

It's been a long road for Diaw. To get an idea of how good he was back in the day, let's head back to 2011 and let Hardwood Paroxysm's Noam Schiller tell the tale:

There will never be another Boris Diaw. That is why it pains us so that we got to see the original and only version show its true form for just a 7 month period. And as we watch the diminished shell of what was once greatness labor around in a Charlotte uniform (or wherever, post-lockout), and we see a rare glimpse of what was with a nice alley-oop to Bismack Biyombo (hopefully) or brilliantly finding a wide open Tyrus Thomas for a clanged 20 footer (hopefully not), we must remember that this was the true Boris Diaw. The one who let Steve Nash down, the one who let us all down, but not before taking to a basketball court and tantalizing our minds with things that shouldn’t be possible.

After his days in Phoenix, Diaw went to Charlotte, played really badly and was the recipient of plenty a barb about his weight. Diaw was eventually released by the Bobcats and he signed with the Spurs.

He's played at a high level since he joined the Spurs in March 2012 and has continued that this year. In about 25 minutes a night, Diaw is averaging 9.5 points and 2.7 assists with a PER of 15.1 in 24 minutes a night. On the surface, those numbers are solid but unspectacular. However, it's deeper than that. Tim Duncan sees him as the team's MVP,  he's surprised people with the type of defense he's played and is beloved by Spurs fans. Over at sister site Pounding the Rock, contributor DewNo wrote:

Minor limitations of form aside, Boris Diaw can play any position in any game in any situation. His passes are savant-level and he's easily the best big man passer in the league. He has the most loping, child's-first-dribble, bouncing-up-to-his-belly penetration game of virtually any professional basketball player, and yet it works. It works. I just can't fathom how, but it works.

With most of the big names out, Diaw figures to be the focal point of the San Antonio attack. He's one of the league's best passers, is pretty nifty in the post, can hit the midrange jumpers with some consistency and has been having the best season of his career from downtown. He figures to start off defensively on Paul Pierce. They're pretty much the same listed size although I would say Boris has the quickness advantage over PP. He can also slide over to Center once Tiago Splitter is out of the game so look for him to make life difficult on the returning Andray Blatche as well.

From the Vault

Before the Spurs played the Nets in the 2003 Finals, they had to come back from a large deficit against the Mavericks in Game Six of the Western Conference Finals.


More reading: Pounding The Rock

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