At least that's over. The Brooklyn Nets were able to snap their five game losing streak and came away with a 94-92 win against the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road. Beggars can't be choosers and for a team that has been dealing with on and off court issues for the last two weeks, the win was very important.
Waiting for the Nets will be the defending NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs. The champs are "only" 8-4, but it's early. This is the second night of a back-to-back and they're coming off of an easy 121-92 win in Minnesota on Friday. They've won three straight games and in a crowded conference, they're still the team to beat.
Where to follow the game
On the television side, head to the YES Network. For the radio crew, tune in on WFAN 101.9 FM. Tip off is a shade after 8:30 PM.
Nothing here for Brooklyn, but Andrei Kirilenko, who appears bound for Philadelphia and beyond, is not on the trip.
For the Spurs, Marco Belinelli had been dealing with a right groin strain but did play ten minutes against Minnesota last night. Matt Bonner has a stomach virus so he probably won't be appearing in this contest. Tiago Splitter hasn't played since November 5 due to an injured right calf and Patty Mills is still recovering from shoulder surgery.
If the schedule's any indication, the Nets will have a better opportunity of winning tonight than in recent years. The last two times the Nets played in San Antonio, it was on New Year's Eve. What happened? The Nets got demolished in 2012 and lit up again in 2013. It has to end up better this time around right? On another note, the Nets will be looking to win in San Antonio for the first time since January 22, 2002. in the regular season. They also won a game in San Antonio during the 2003 NBA Finals.
Throughout the early portion of the season, everyone had been asking whypersonal reasons and Lionel Hollins said he doubts he will be rejoining the team. If he doesn't come back, then it will mark the end of what can only be described as a disappointing stint in Brooklyn. He never got the playing time he was used to and didn't even crack the rotation this season.hasn't been playing much. After yesterday, we're going to be asking when Andrei Kirilenko will be leaving the organization. He won't be playing due to
Throughout the Nets down period, they've faced some of the league's best point guards. Tonight is no exception when they face Tony Parker. Like Reggie Jackson, Parker is at his best driving to the rim. He does it ten times a game and is shooting a sparking 58.3 percent when he does. He's never been a good three point shooter, but so far this year, he's shooting a career best 68.4 percent from deep. Most of his attempts have come from the corner, which is the shortest three point distance. For Brooklyn, Deron Williams should look to post him up whenever possible. When Williams has played well, he has done so by going to the basket early and often. He's got size on Parker so the Spurs might compensate for that by having the longer Danny Green cover Williams. When Williams heads to the bench, Jarrett Jack should keep things going. He's been the Nets best player over the last two weeks,
In the frontcourt for San Antonio, Tim Duncan keeps on keeping on. The 17 year veteran isn't the best big man in the league anymore, but with this roster, he doesn't need to be. Even still, he's averaging a double double on the season while shooting a respectable 46.6 percent from the field. On defense, his task will be to keep Brook Lopez out of the restricted area. Of his 12 shots against the Thunder on Friday, eight were very close to the basket. The Spurs should throw a variety of looks and double teams at Lopez to keep him flustered. There has been a lot of talk about Lopez's passing (and lack thereof), but he's been turning the ball over at a career high rate. Duncan isn't one to play heavy minutes, but with the Spurs having some time off before their next game on Wednesday against Indiana, he and the other major players should be playing tonight.
Player to watch: Kawhi Leonard
Although he didn't get the contract extension he was looking for, 2014 has been an amazing year for Leonard. He had an excellent postseason and ended it by winning the Finals MVP. His numbers aren't sexy (12/7.4/2.3 on a true shooting percentage of 52.1), but he does a variety of things incredibly well. He doesn't really fit into the binaries we think of when it comes to small forwards, and Michael Erler of Pounding the Rock discusses his season so far:
He is getting better, year-by-year, game-by-game. He's the best post-player of any SF outside of LeBron right now. He's the second-best mid-range shooter on the Spurs besides Tony Parker. He can create his own shots. And, not to put too fine a point on it, but the game against the Clippers might have been the best passing game of his career. His passing has improved tremendously. There is a ceiling there because of his good-not-great athleticism, but even Leonard with his ridiculous wingspan, hasn't come close to reaching it yet. I think he can be a 19-9-5-3-2 guy. That, to me, is his ceiling.
As I read that snippet, I said to myself "That sounds like Scottie Pippen. Not bad." And funnily enough, that comparison has already been made.
Leonard can adequately cover three positions so look for him to take turns guarding Williams, Bojan Bogdanovic and Joe Johnson. Johnson only took five field goal attempts in 32:19 so he should be much more active in looking for his shot. He's usually able to post up wing players, but that advantage will be absent against Leonard. When Leonard has the ball, he'll look to work in the low post. The majority of his shots come from close to the basket and with Kirilenko no longer around, he can put the Nets at a deep disadvantage if he can get Johnson in foul trouble. Brooklyn probably won't double him, but if they do, Green, Belinelli, and Manu Ginobili will make them think twice.
From the Vault
It's not very often a number one seed looks completely helpless in the Conference Finals. Unfortunately for the Spurs, that's what happened to them in 2001 against Shaq, Kobe and the Lakers.
More reading: Pounding The Rock
- Brooklyn Nets: Game Notes - Brooklyn Nets
- San Antonio Spurs Game Notes - San Antonio Spurs
- Nets-Spurs Preview - Alan Ferguson - STATS LLC
- Nets rewind: Bench keys Nets win over Thunder - Tim Bontemps - New York Post
- Kevin Garnett (rest) out tonight - Mike Mazzeo - ESPN New York
Nets need inspired play to win in San Antonio vs. Spurs - Devin Kharpertian - The Brooklyn Game
- Spurs notebook: Wolves guard says ‘Slo-Mo’ a quick study - Jeff McDonald - San Antonio Express-News