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Nets return to Barclays for another shot at the Spurs (who lost to the Knicks)

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NBA: Brooklyn Nets at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

WOW that game in Charlotte was weird, right? The Nets were dominating a tired Hornets team until about halfway through the third quarter and then BAM, Kemba Walker and Tony Parker just couldn’t stop hitting shots. The Nets blew their lead so badly that I saw a couple of social media posts about the Nets grabbing a comeback win! They blew it so badly they had to comeback themselves! Wild. A win is a win though, and it’s time to move onto the next opponent.

The Spurs are coming to Brooklyn with a 33-28 record AFTER THEY LOST TO THE KNICKS SUNDAY. Although they remain the seventh seed in the West, it was their sixth loss in their last seven games, an extraordinary streak for a Gregg Popovich-coached team

So, they have an urgency to win with the Clippers (with whom they’re now tied), the Kings, and Lakers all on their tail. A good week could put the Spurs in the fifth seed and a bad one could drop them out of the playoffs entirely, that’s just how it goes in the West. Hopefully they don’t gain any ground in Brooklyn. Let’s get into it.

Where To Follow The Game

YES and WFAN at 7:30pm, ET.

Injuries

Spencer Dinwiddie (thumb) is out. And also sorely missed. Get well soon Spencer!

Dejounte Murray (knee) is out for the season and Derrick White (heel) and LaMarcus Aldridge (illness) have been day to day.

The Game

The Spurs will be the second straight team the Nets will face coming off of a back-to-back. The Spurs played the Knicks Sunday before heading one borough over for Monday night’s game. While they won’t be traveling they will be playing basketball two nights in a row which, if you’ve ever played basketball, you know is tiring. Advantage: Nets. Also, all Spurs related stats used in this piece will be prior to Sunday nights game because the season is almost over and not much is going to change in one game even if the Spurs LOST TO A GLORIFIED G LEAGUE TEAM.

San Antonio attempts the second fewest amount on threes per game in the league at 25.1, but shoot a league-high 40.7% from deep. They do this because their Shooters Shoot and their Non Shooters Do Not Shoot. DeMar Derozan is taking just 0.7 threes per game and making basically none of them, which is okay because he can’t anyway. Why have him shoot threes when they aren’t going to go in? Last season in Toronto he took 3.6 a game and made 31% of them and that was hot shooting for him. His career mark from downtown is 28% which is not good whatsoever.

The Nets take the fifth most threes per game in the league at 35.1 and make 35.6 percent of their attempts which ranks ninth, pretty, pretty good! You could make a case for the Nets being an elite three point shooting team, obviously led by Joe Harris and even D’Angelo Russell who has already hit 167 three pointers this season. Imagine if the Nets had a power forward who could also shoot threes like say, Davis Bertans of the Spurs? They’d be unstoppable. Bertans, by the way, leads the league in three point percentage at 48% which edges out Joe Harris by about one percent.

D’Angelo Russell looked like an All-Star in that game against Charlotte, and on his birthday no less! He ended up with 40 and 7 and hit some mammoth shots down the stretch to finally give the Nets the win they almost didn’t have. As good as DLo was and is, there were times where the absence of Spencer Dinwiddie was palpable. When teams start going on runs against the Nets, Dinwiddie has that preternatural ability to just sort of bulldoze his way down into the post and either get a good look at a bucket or draw a foul or both. He can stop the momentum and rhythm of an opposing team the way almost no one else on this Nets team can. Hopefully he returns rested and ready to go for the stretch run, Brooklyn is going to need him.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was the odd man out of the rotation on Saturday, with Rodions Kurucs making his triumphant return. Kurucs played a little less than 10 minutes, scored four points, grabbed three rebounds and was +5 for the game. Solid performance. It’ll be interesting going forward to see how Kenny figures out the rotation, especially when Jared Dudley returns. RHJ might be more useful against the Spurs since they employ LaMarcus Aldridge who is very tough to guard even if you’re around his size.

Aldridge is having another great season and Popovich has basically just turned him into Tim Duncan Lite. He takes a ton of midrange and post shots, putting up 20.7 points and 9 rebounds per game. Aldridge has been remarkably consistent throughout his career, so finishing out his prime on the Spurs seems fitting. Also Pau Gasol plays on this team still, did you know that? I did, obviously, but I forgot, and that makes me happy. He missed a big chunk of the season but he’s back and sees some minutes here and there. He’s 38 years old. Love it. He’s also due $16 million next year which isn’t great for the Spurs but good for Pau! Get that money!

One other note: Not only is this second half of a back-to-back. it’s the last game in their annual eight-game rodeo road trip. Sunday marked the six time on the trip that they allowed the opponent to rack up 120 or more points.

Player To Watch

Rudy Gay has had an interesting and wild career trajectory. Heralded originally as a potentially elite scorer, he was actually decently efficient up through his age 25 season, shooting 45/34/77 for his career until that point. His production didn’t drop off too much after that, but he gained a reputation as a no-defense, shot-chucking, inefficient kind of player. The face of the Old NBA as the three point and efficiency revolution started to take place. And some of those criticisms were fair! He developed a Ewing-Theory-esque reputation and for good reason. When the eighth seed Grizzlies beat the one seed Spurs in the 2011 playoffs, Gay was hurt and didn’t play.

Despite all of this, Rudy has found a home in San Antonio as an overqualified role player. He takes good shots, he tries on defense, and is generally a positive impact player on both sides of the ball. He scores 14.4 points per game on really great 51/43/81 shooting while playing more power forward than small forward due to the changing sizes and skill sets of players in the league compared to when he first arrived. He is also only 32 somehow, a year younger than LaMarcus Aldridge, and a free agent after this season (wink wink). It’s a good story, I like when guys work hard to change and it works. Good for Rudy.

From The Vault

I forgot about this series until about five minutes ago, it was a lot of fun! I’ve always been partial to the Spurs but I liked that Grizzlies team a ton. Basketball is great.

Enjoy.

For a different perspective, take a look at Pounding the Rock, the Spurs sister site at SB Nation.