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Nets look to upset Spurs

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

That was almost a catastrophe. On Wednesday, the Brooklyn Nets played host to the Denver Nuggets. They got up by as much as 29 points and appeared to be on their way to their easiest win of the season. Unfortunately for them, things weren’t that easy. They almost gave it all away but managed to hold on for a 116-111 win. They'll take what they can get at this point.

The opponent this evening will be the San Antonio Spurs. As usual, the Spurs have been excelling while the focus goes to other excellent teams in the league. They were on the road in Chicago on Thursday night and lost 95-91 to the Bulls. It was their first road loss of the season.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. Tip off after 8:30.


Jeremy Lin is still out, although he has begun practicing again. Everyone else is healthy. Chris McCullough is assigned to the Long Island Nets.

Nothing doing for San Antonio.

The game

The Nets will be looking to snap a losing streak tonight. The last time they beat the Spurs in San Antonio was in early 2002. Since then it’s been a parade of ugly losses for New Jersey/Brooklyn. (They did beat the Spurs twice in the 2003 NBA Finals.)

The roster is looking a bit different today. The Nets waived Yogi Ferrell and signed Spencer Dinwiddie from the D-League’s Windy City Bulls. He’s with the team and it’s unknown as to whether he’ll get some game action tonight.

Our friends over at Pounding the Rock are doing something awesome for the Spurs Christmas Day game vs the Bulls. Check out the details here.

Here's something odd. San Antonio is only 5-4 at home and actually have a negative point differential. When they're away from the AT&T Center, they're 9-1 and are outscoring teams by nine points per 100 possessions. Just one of those early season oddities, I suppose.

Hard to believe, but we might need to keep an eye on how hard the Spurs play out the gate. Gregg Popovich has been pretty displeased with their effort levels at various points this year, and if San Antonio is going to challenge the Warriors and Clippers, they're gonna have to clean things up. Pop is also good for a great quote, and this one is an all timer:

“Guys get a lot of money to be ready to play. No Knute Rockne speeches. It’s your job. If you’re a plumber and you don’t do your job, you don’t get any work. I don’t think a plumber needs a pep talk. A doctor botches operations and he’s not a doctor anymore. If you’re a basketball player, you come ready. It’s called maturity. It’s your job.”

We'll be getting a display of why the D-League is so important this evening. Sean Kilpatrick has been a godsend for the Nets and has done well since he replaced Rondae Hollis Jefferson in the starting lineup. Although he’s struggled lately, Jonathon “Can’t Go Back” Simmons has had his fair share of good moments and is all heart. Good organizations make use of all the player development avenues available to them

There were some trade rumors surrounding LaMarcus Aldridge in the preseason, but nothing came of it. He’s done his usual thing and is always a solid bet to go for 16-18 points a night with a bevy of post moves and elbow jumpers. Trevor Booker’s job tonight will be to muscle Aldridge and make him uncomfortable on the inside. LMAis having the worst rebounding season of his career and if Booker is able to clean up the glass, it can create transition opportunities for the Nets.

Player to watch: Kawhi Leonard

Leonard has been growing into the superstar role and will be the Spurs’ go-to player for the foreseeable future. He doesn’t fit the bill of the prototypical superstar (ie: high usage scorer), and the crew over at Pounding the Rock discussed some of that last month. This quote from Bruno Passos stood out:

His usage rate has indeed dropped since Parker's return (I think it was in the low 30s early on), but it's hard to argue with the eye test and results that have come of it. The starting lineup clicks better with the ball in his hands a little less, and he's been a way more efficient player working off the catch than in isolation. I know Kawhi's capable of carrying more of an offensive load (and that certainly seems like a role he can take on in the future), but doing so makes poor use of the offensive talent around him, and it's probably a bit too taxing on his body in the long run with him still being so important to the defense.

Leonard has been putting together an MVP quality season so far. As expected, he’s taken on more offensive responsibility and his efficiency hasn’t suffered much at all. He’s averaging a career high 24.2 points a game to go along with six rebounds and three assists a night. When you dig into the numbers, we can see that he is getting to the line at a career high rate, a good post scorer, and as ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh points out, a fantastic scorer in pick and roll situations.

It’ll be interesting to see how Bojan Bogdanovic does tonight. Leonard’s defense has appeared to take a step back as opponents are shooting 48 percent from the field against him, which is nine points better than they did against him last year. More surprisingly, the team defense is 15.9 points per 100 possessions BETTER when he’s not on the court. Leonard has shown himself to be an amazing defender, so the numbers should get back on track with his game soon.

With Kilpatrick’s emergence, Bogdanovic has become the Nets’ third option on offense. He has shown (at least internationally) that he can be a leading scoring option for his team, and if he can get it going soon, he can stabilize the Nets offense and form a nice little trio with Brook Lopez and Kilpatrick.

From the Vault

It’s still weird not having Tim Duncan around. And speaking of Tim, we’re coming up on the 15th anniversary of the game in which he scored his career high in points.

More reading: Pounding the Rock