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Nets end 17-game losing skid in San Antonio, defeating Spurs in OT, 124-113

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at San Antonio Spurs Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

The Alamo Curse is finally over!

After 19 long years, the franchise won its first regular-season game in San Antonio behind Kyrie Irving and James Harden who combined for 57 points, 20 rebounds and 21 assists as the Nets beat the Spurs, 124-113 in overtime. With the win, Brooklyn improves to 23-13 on the season while San Antonio falls to 17-13.

Harden, playing his 22nd game with the Nets, racked up his seventh triple-doublewith 30 points, 14 rebounds and 15 assists. the third time the 6’5” guard dropped 15 or more assists in a game since being traded to Brooklyn on January 13. Oh yeah, he didn’t turn the ball over once. How rare is that?

“I just try to find ways to impact the game, and not just scoring the basketball,” said Harden of his triple-double. “We have a number of guys that can put the ball in the basket. Defensively, rebounding the basketball is one of the areas where we need to improve at. And just being a distributor––getting guys shots, getting guys easy buckets I feel like is my job. Just playing the game the right way; not forcing anything, trying to make the right play, trying to get guys shots. That’s kind of the mindset every single game and it’s been working.”

The game also featured yet another sterling game from Bruce Brown who scored 23 points grabbed three rebounds, and an assist in 35 minutes giving the 6’4” center (?) his fifth straight double-digit outing. While Harden recorded his seventh triple-double, Nicolas Claxton had himself a career night.

In just his 19th NBA game and fifth of the season, Claxton had a breakout with a career-high 17 points to go along with three rebounds, three blocks, one steal, and one assist in 17 minutes off the bench.

“It felt good,” Claxton said on his career-high performance. “I got a little rhythm and I’m starting to get my legs back a little bit. It felt good to be out there and my teammates found me, James especially putting me in positions to score. When the game is made that simple, I am going to take that free money every time.”

Despite having a career night, Claxton rolled his ankle and took a shot to the face off a fast break. He looked to some like he was a bit gassed. No worries. He said he’ll be ready for Houston on Wednesday.

“I feel good. It felt good to get back in the trenches honestly,” Claxton said about the physical hits he took in Tuesday’s win. “Just to get a little nicked up and keep playing, you know, it feels good. I’ll take care of my body and get ready for when we play Houston.”

Brooklyn led by 10 points with 2:12 remaining but San Antonio did not go away, ending the fourth on a 10-0 run and a wild shot by Dejounte Murray after an Irving miss to force overtime and bring bonus basketball to San Antonio.

“I’d have to watch it back to give you a really clear picture but we made mistakes but we also missed two layups,” Nash said about the end of regulation. “The last play was funky too. The kid trips on the ball, rolling around on it, and I think our guys fanned out to 3-point shooters because that is the only way we could lose the game. Then, he stands up and makes the shot so of course, you can say we made a mistake or two down the stretch but more importantly, if we made a couple of layups, the game was over. Still, plenty to build on but lots of positives as well.”

After the late-game collapse, the Nets were all business in overtime. Brooklyn kicked off overtime hitting their first three shots, including a straightaway three from Brown, The Nets outscored San Antonio, 16-9.

“It was a great response,” Nash said about the overtime period. “You miss a couple of bunnies, they make the shot at the buzzer, and you can fold. You can think its not our night, we got ahead a little bit, you can come out and lack confidence but we came out with confidence, made big shots, defended, rebounded, and took care of business in overtime. Great response from our guys.”

Brooklyn finished the win shooting 47.0 percent overall and 41.5 percent from deep while recording nine turnovers, only two in the first half. Brooklyn also racked up a season-high 35 assists.

The Nets opened up the contest with two consecutive threes by Kyrie Irving, who finished with 27 points, seven assists, and six rebounds in 42 minutes but it was the ball security and spacing that made the early difference. Brooklyn did not turn over the ball in the opening period while dishing nine assists while shooting 45.5 percent from three. The Nets held the Spurs to 36.0 percent shooting overall to enter the second with a six-point lead.

San Antonio began the second gaining offensive rhythm as Brooklyn relaxed on defense and went small. The Spurs put together an 8-0 run to tie the game at 32 with 8:27 remaining but Claxton took over. The Nets 6’11” big, who started the second for Brooklyn, finished the quarter scoring 13 of the Nets 30 second-quarter points on 6-of-7 shooting to boost Brooklyn to a 57-54 halftime lead.

As a team, the Nets dished out 19 assists with just two turnovers in the first half. The 19 first-half assists mark the second-most in a half this season for Brooklyn while the two turnovers are tied for the second-fewest in a half this season.

Both teams traded baskets throughout the third ending the quarter knotted up at 81. In the opening minutes of the fourth, Claxton continued to have a career night in his 19th NBA game but had a few injury scares. Off a block attempt, DeMar Derozan, who finished with _ points in _ minutes for the Spurs, rolled on top of Claxton’s left ankle, twisting his ankle. A few possessions later, Claxton had a nifty steal and took it down the court but was favoring that left leg while taking a smack in the face in the process.

After a slow third, the Nets put it together in the fourth, growing a 95-86 lead with 7:01 remaining due to a 12-2 run followed by a Harden takeover. Despite the Nets finding a groove, their defense didn’t follow allowing the Spurs to hang in the game.

The game went into overtime but the Nets pulled out the win, escaping San Antonio with their sixth-straight road win. Everything may be bigger in Texas but not longer.

How long was the Alamo Curse? Even Steve Nash was shocked to hear about its length.

The Nets are now 5-43 all-time in San Antonio.

The Film Room

Guess who had his breakout game?

In his fourth game of the season, Nicolas Claxton looked unmistakably comfortable in his best performance yet. His conditioning was better–––until he, quite literally, nearly keeled over from exhaustion after a series of alley-oops. He honed into protecting the basket even after switches on the perimeter. Clax even busted out that silky jump-hook game that made brief appearances a season ago.

But maybe most enticing of all was his rim-runs. Attacking the basket after screens has been a bit of a conundrum for the young center this season, perhaps even bordering on a weakness. Against the Spurs, the dude was just getting after it.

This is exactly what you want from a center playing in Steve Nash’s offense: Strong contact after the screen, a decisive run to the basket to stretch the retreating defense, and sweet elevation for the lob-pass.

(And yes, this is a handoff possession, but the same general principles remain intact)

Watch out. This guy may rim-run and jump-hook himself into lots and lots of playoff minutes.

Bruce Brown just floating above it all

As noted, Bruce Brown scored 23 points in the Alamo City, shooting an impressive 10-of-13 including 2-of-3 from deep. A number of those 10 field goals came on floaters. Brown gets free underneath and like a lot of great players, knows where the basket is at all times. It’s where he makes his living.

Before the game, he told reporters that his floaters are the product of a lot of off-season work.

“This offseason, I worked on my floaters a lot,” he disclosed. “Then, the guys on the floor make it easier for me. There’s usually wide-open layups for me. In Detroit, I couldn’t shoot any floaters, but now I can show I can do that. That’s always been the issue.”

Brown, all of 6’4” but with a 6’9” wingspan, is making the best of being the man left alone underneath — and now in the corners where he shot 42 percent last season in Detroit.

Over his last five games, all double figure showings, Brown is averaging 18.2 points and 5.6 boards while shooting 71.7 percent (not a typo) overall and 50 percent from deep. Brown is 24.

An ‘impersonal’ game that was also a little personal

To watch the Nets take down the might Spurs in San Antonio’s home arena, you’d have to travel back allll the way to 2002. At that time, January 22nd to be specific, Nickelback’s “How You Remind Me” was the #1 record in America. So, yeah. A long time ago.

Given the, well, long-standing history of L’s handed out freely at the AT&T Arena, this regular-old March meetup between a finals contender and scrappy young team outperforming expectations maybe meant a little more to the superstar-laden favorite than normal.

“I was actually thinking, I’ve never won here in San Antonio,” said Bruce Brown, who was 5 years old the last time the Nets beat the Spurs on the road. “So if we do win tonight, it’ll be my first time. Definitely motivated to get this win.”

For Steve Nash, who had multiple soul-crushing losses in the playoffs to the Spurs as a player, making the most of his coaching debut against the coaching mind that had caused him so much pain (Gregg Popovich) meant a little extra... but it also didn’t...

Better yet, it’s probably best to let him explain.

“I’m gonna approach it as another game. We need to worry about ourselves and try and perform at a high level and continue to get better,” explained Nash. “But if I did allow myself the opportunity to actually take a step back and recognize the position I’m in to coach against one of the all-time great coaches who I have had many series and battles against through the years, it’s a fortunate position to say I got to also coach against Gregg Popovich... I admire him greatly. He’s kicked my butt quite a few times, so fingers crossed.”

And once again, Nash came away with a win against a more experienced coach.

Sean Marks talks accountability, camaraderie

In a pre-game interview with Michael Grady, Sean Marks spoke about the season so far. Monday did mark the season’s halfway point. The Nets GM spoke about the ups-and-downs of the season, player accountability, how Steve Nash has grown, remaining “poised” but at the same time “stern” when need be and how player camaraderie is his biggest takeaway so far.

In addition to shouting out the stars, Marks gave credit to rotation players Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Landry Shamet who he said, “have played extremely well for us.”

If you’re looking for any news about upcoming moves, trade, free agent signings, move on. He’s not giving it up.

Steve Nash comments on the dismissal of Lloyd Pierce as Atlanta Hawks head coach

The NBA community was frustrated and confused when the Hawks announced the team dismissed Lloyd Pierce as head coach. Steve Nash and Pierce were college teammates and remain close friends to this day.

When Nash was asked about the dismissal, the Nets coach paused and provided his thoughts noting how a lot of organizations will be very fortunate to have him on their staff but he is disappointed for him.

“He’s a heck of a young coach and an incredible human being,” Nash said. “There would be a lot of organizations that would be very fortunate to have him. Disappointed for Lloyd. With his talent, character, and work ethic, he’s going to be fine.”

Atlanta, who have suffered various injuries throughout the first half of the regular season, are 14-20 and 11th in the Eastern Conference.

Evaluating 10-day players is a tricky balance for Nash

Prior to Tuesday’s game against the San Antonio Spurs, Steve Nash spoke about his three 10-day players (Iman Shumpert, Andre Roberson, and Tyler Cook), whose contracts are set to expire Sunday, March 7. They can be extended another 10 days, but it’s not a lock.

Nash noted how there’s balance between winning and development. The Nets head coach did not guarantee any of the three players seeing minutes against the Spurs.

“It is a tricky balance between just worrying about the group and then, as a head coach, that leans more towards the front office for structuring the roster and how it’s going to go,” Nash said about the 10-day players. “I can’t even guarantee those guys get minutes tonight. I’d say it’s 50-50 so it’s a hard position to be in so I’m not sure if they’ll be in the rotation or not. I think some of that falls to the front office and I’ll worry about coaching the team to perform as we sincerely try to evaluate them while getting a good sample size.

“Guys play their best and give us the best chance to win. If we get a chance to evaluate those guys then great but it is not top of mind.”

In Monday’s game, only Roberson and Cook got minutes, seven to be exact. Roberson finished with an assist and a rebound and Cook all zero’s in 15 seconds. Chris Chiozza was also a DNP-CD. The Nets will soon have to decide whether to guarantee his two-way deal also by Sunday

Social Media breakthrough

While you were sleeping, us too, the Nets made a social media breakthrough recently. They passed the Knicks on Instagram. As this graphic shows, the Nets now have more followers on the app than their cross-river rivals.

Just the latest metric where the Nets have gained on or surpassed the Knicks.

As Sponge Bob might say...

Per Will Hanley.

What’s next

The Nets will remain in the great state of Texas to face off against the Houston Rockets to cap off their final game before the NBA All-Star Break on Wednesday, March 3. The game is set to tip at 7:30 PM ET and will be nationally televised on ESPN.

The game marks James Harden’s first return to Houston since being dealt to the Brooklyn Nets following an uneasy exit from the franchise.

“Hopefully, those fans appreciated everything I’ve done on and off the court. I’m still continuing to do off the court,” Harden said looking ahead to Wednesday’s return. “Once there’s a place that I call home, it’s always home. I feel like I’m still a part of everything & the struggles they go through.”

For a different perspective, check out Pounding The Rock - our sister site on SB Nation covering the San Antonio Spurs.