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The Spurs pay a visit to Brooklyn

"Been in this game for years, it's made me an animal. There's rules to this..."
"Been in this game for years, it's made me an animal. There's rules to this..."
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

That could have gone sideways. In the first half of their back to back, the Brooklyn Nets almost blew their big lead but came away with a 98-93 win over the New York Knicks at the Garden. Even with their ugly play, the Nets are only 7-9. After this night, the schedule doesn't get any easier for Brooklyn. They continue their stay in the city with a game against the Atlanta Hawks on Friday before hosting LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday.

Coming to town this evening will be the reigning NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs. All has been going well for the champs and they're currently on an eight game winning streak. They almost to the Philadelphia 76ers, but they didn't so whatever. Even at 13-4, they're trailing the red hot Memphis Grizzlies. Peeking ahead at their schedule, they face the Grizzlies for the first time (and the final stop on their four game road trip) this Friday night.


Nothing here for the Nets, other than Markel Brown continues to recover from a hip-pointer, although this is worth keeping an eye on.

For the Spurs, Tony Parker missed last game with a rib injury. Tiago Splitter hasn't played much this year due to a calf injury. Both are questionable for this contest.

The game

What's the story? Let's check it out:

2014-2015 Season

Brooklyn San Antonio


7-9 13-4


94.8 96.27

Offensive Efficiency

102.3 104.3

Defensive Efficiency

103.3 96.3

Turnover Rate

15.5 15.4

Assist Rate

15.8 18.6

Offensive Rebounding Rate

24.2 22.4

Rebounding Rate

49.2 52.3

Free Throw Rate

27.5 28.1

Effective Field Goal Percentage

49.5 51.2

Opponent's Effective Field Goal Percentage

49.8 47.2

The Spurs won the first meeting 99-87 on November 23.

If the Nets win tonight, it would be their first win against a team that is .500 or above. They'll take any win they can get, but it would do wonders for the Nets' morale if they can finally beat a good team.

Brook Lopez is coming off of his best game of the season. The big guy scored 23 points, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked three shots (including a crucial one late in the game) in 35:17 of playing time. Almost all of his shots came from the painted area and it's something Brooklyn should look to repeat tonight. He got a lot of shots near the rim in the first meeting with the Spurs, but wasn't able to make a contribution. If the Nets want to improve in the standings, they're going to need Lopez to remain an active and productive part of the offense.

Assuming Parker plays, the point guard matchup between he and Deron Williams should be fun. Williams made five three pointers, didn't commit a turnover, and wooed the MSG crowd last night. When Williams is playing like he did last night, the Nets offense is tough to defend. He's driving to the rim more than he did last season and his size enables him to post up any point guard in the league. For the Nets defense, they need to be wary when Parker drives to the basket. He does it 11 times a game (fifth highest in the league), and with shooters like Danny Green and Marco Belinelli on the perimeter, the Nets are in a difficult spot defensively.

He's only 24 years old, but it appears the Spurs are handing the reins over to Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. His shooting is down a bit compared to last season, but he has taken on more offensive responsibility. He has the potential to be one of the best players in the league. He's a good post player, terrific defender, solid passer and a good contributor on the glass. Over at the mothership, Mike Prada mentions the next step in Leonard's evolution:

The next step therefore isn't necessarily loosening him up, as Popovich notes publicly. It's sharpening Leonard's tools, which includes his post-up skills, his ability to read help defenses and his ball-handling. What better way to do so than by giving him experience in November games the Spurs can win anyway without really exerting themselves

He'll be facing Joe Johnson tonight. Johnson ended up scoring 22 points against the Knicks, but it took him a while to really get involved in the game. When Leonard isn't guarding Johnson, we might see Boris Diaw take a turn at guarding JJ. Diaw's return to relevance after being so bad for so long has been a joy to watch. He's a great passer, good rebounder, underrated defender and fun off of the court. What's not to love?

Player to watch: Tim Duncan

Another year, another solid campaign for the future Hall of Famer. He isn't capable of being the lead option on offense for an extended period anymore (see his career low usage rate), but he's still contributing in a variety of ways. The Spurs are the league's best defensive rebounding team, and a lot of that is due to Duncan. TD has grabbed about 28 percent of the available defensive rebounds while he has been on the floor, eighth best in the league (Kevin Garnett is tops in the Association). When he does shoot, he's doing it at a 48 percent clip.

When he played Brooklyn back in November, he had an excellent all around game. He scored seven points, grabbed ten rebounds, handed out a season high seven assists, and played excellent defense on Lopez. He'll draw the assignment on Lopez again for this evening. One thing that will help Duncan and the Spurs is Lopez's penchant for turnovers. He's coughing it up 14 percent of the time he has the ball, a career high. Brooklyn's three point shooting has been cold for most of the past two weeks, and we should look for the Spurs to throw double teams at Lopez.

From the Vault

Last time we went into the vault with the Spurs, they were getting obliterated in the 2001 Western Conference Finals by Shaq, Kobe and the Lakers. We're headed to the 2003 Western Conference Semifinals this time around, and let's just say the result was much different than 2001...

More reading: Pounding the Rock