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Nets begin a mini-road trip in San Antonio against Spurs

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New Orleans Pelicans v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images

All things must come to an end. It is an inevitable part of the cycle of existence, all things must conclude...

On Saturday night, the Brooklyn Nets put their eight game winning streak on the line against the Dallas Mavericks. After a close first half, the Nets couldn’t bring it all the way home and wound up taking the L. Nets fans shouldn’t bemoan the end of the streak as the team ahead of them in the standings, the Philadelphia 76ers, also lost on Saturday night. And before we move on, I’ll pass the microphone and gavel to a Nets expert...

The opponent tonight will be the San Antonio Spurs. Speaking of streaks, San Antonio had their 22-year playoff appearances streak stopped last season. However, they’re back to their winning ways and find themselves fifth in the jam-packed Western Conference. Gregg Popovich and friends won their last game, a close one against the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday night.

Where to follow the game

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

Injuries

Kevin Durant is out til after the All Star Break. Spencer Dinwiddie is out. Kyrie Irving missed Saturday’s game as he was managing his shoulder. He’s expected back tonight. Tyler Johnson missed Saturday’s game with a migraine injury. He’s listed as probable. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot is questionable with right knee soreness. Jeff Green is questionable with a right shoulder contusion. Both played Saturday.

Keldon Johnson, Rudy Gay, Devin Vassell, Derrick White, and Quinndary Weatherspoon are all in the COVID-19 protocol and won’t be here tonight.

The game

After this one, the Spurs are back on the clock tomorrow night against the New York Knicks. There isn’t much that brings Nets and Knicks fans together, but Tim Duncan ruining championship dreams is one of them.

We mentioned all of the Spurs in the COVID protocol up top, and that’s going to come back to bite them in the second half of the season. San Antonio will play 40 games in 68 days, including a New York back to back as they’ll be in Brooklyn on May 12 and MSG on May 13. It’s gonna be a tough road for San Antonio.

So, what do we do with LaMarcus Aldridge? He’s not a bad player or anything like that, it just feels like he’s not the best fit on the younger Spurs anymore. He’s taking threes at the highest rate of his career and has made a more than respectable 37 percent of them, but still. As it happens, there are reports the Spurs are looking to trade the former All Star and if they are able to get a player back that can help them in exchange for LMA, great. If nothing comes up, at least they’ll have Aldridge as a scoring option off the bench.

If there’s one thing we know for sure about a Popovich coached team, it’s that they’ll always be incredibly disciplined. San Antonio has been the best in the league at managing possessions, as they’ve turned it over only 11 percent of the team this season. Being as controlled as they are is of the utmost importance as the team doesn’t have many elite shot makers and creators.

Having Irving back will help as he’s been one of the best players in the league this season. More importantly, it gives the Nets another elite shot creator and someone to help take some of the offensive responsibilities that James Harden has been shouldering with KD out. Irving can do practically anything he puts his mind to on the court, and it’ll make for a nice battle between he and Dejounte Murray. Murray is one of the Spurs that will lead the team into the future and he’s been doing a great job this season. The scoring and playmaking is coming along, but it’s his defense that is helping him stand out. He’s eighth in the association in steals, has helped anchor a fantastic second unit, and as Daniel Lubofsky of Hoops Habit writes:

A 6’4” standing with a nearly 6’10” wingspan makes Murray one of the best ballhawks in the NBA. There’s an inherent risk to dribbling near quick hands that can swipe down and get the ball before the offense even realizes a change in possession. By then, Murray is already fast-breaking down the other end of the court.

The Spurs may be back atop the West quicker than we realize.

Although San Antonio is shooting more threes this year, they’re still not shooting as many threes compared to the rest of the league. San Antonio is 27th in threes attempted and 19th in efficiency. It’s vastly different from the Nets, who are seventh in attempts and second in efficiency. If Brooklyn can get hot from deep, they’ll get their first win in San Antonio since 2002 during Jason Kidd’s first season with the team.

Player to watch: DeMar DeRozan

DeMar returned to the team on Saturday following the passing of his father, Frank. On behalf of everyone here, we’re sending our condolences out to the DeRozan family.

On the court, DeRozan has been amazing. In the bubble last year, the Spurs ran an experiment with him at power forward. It worked well and this year and it’s working so well this year that it led to him being a legit candidate to be named to the All Star team this year. He’s taking more responsibility with playmaking and has been averaging a career high seven assists a night. He’s making a career best 89 percent of his free throws and is the lead option the Spurs go to during winning time. It’s a welcome sight to see DeRozan at the top of his game this year and while there have been mentions of the team trading him since he can enter free agency this summer, I think that would be a drastic mistake. When a team is going well and a player has been a positive, stabilizing force for a roster as young as this, let it ride and let him stay in a place where he’s comfortable. Let the kids get some playoff experience with a seasoned vet like DDR leading them through it.

Harden will look to clean up the turnover bug. He coughed it up six times on Saturday night, and he’s turned it over 12 times in the last two games. That was otherwise a minor blemish on what’s been a tremendous run of play since moving East. I doubt he says it, but I have to imagine he’s looking ahead to Wednesday night. There, he’ll making his return to Houston for the first time since the trade earlier this season. That should be a good time.

From the Vault

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