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Nets and Spurs play a matinee at Barclays

San Antonio Spurs v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

The home cooking isn’t hitting right now. The Brooklyn Nets came home to take on the reigning champs, the Milwaukee Bucks. Unfortunately for the fans at Barclays, the Nets came out flat again and got knocked around on national TV. The L was their fifth straight at home. They’re still in the top part of the Eastern Conference, but the questions facing the team are rising by the day.

The opponent today will be the San Antonio Spurs. Gregg Popovich and friends are still trying to find their way, but it’s been tough. They were in Philadelphia on Friday night and lost to the 76ers by 19. They’ll be in town one more night as they’ll take a trip over to MSG to play the New York Knicks on Monday night.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN on radio. Make sure you set your alarms as this one gets started at high noon.

Injuries

No Joe Harris. Kyrie Irving is back tomorrow. LaMarcus Aldridge is questionable with right foot soreness.

Keldon Johnson, Tre Jones, Devin Vassell, Doug McDermott, Derrick White, and our old friend Thaddeus Young are in COVID protocols. Zach Collins is out with a left ankle stress fracture.

The game

If you’re a baseball fan (go Mets), then you’re quite familiar with this setup. East Coast team plays a day game and immediately flies to the West Coast for a 10 p.m. game the next night. Tough bit of business for the Nets, but with all of the COVID issues affecting the league and world, you just have to do the best you can given the circumstances.

Becky Hammon is in the house this afternoon, and while she didn’t take the New York Liberty job, she’ll be joining a stacked Las Vegas Aces squad this spring. As for the Liberty, they got their new coach in Sandy Brondello. We covered her first day and what she brings to the Liberty here.

This was one of the coolest pictures from last summer’s Olympics:

XHTP-JAPAN-SAITAMA-OLY-BASKETBALL-MEN’S FINAL-AWARDING CEREMONY Photo by Meng Yongmin/Xinhua via Getty Images

It was awesome to see Pop get the gold.

Pop’s star on Team USA hopes to keep filling up the stat sheet this afternoon. Kevin Durant showed up to the party on Friday night and scored his usual 29 points along with nine rebounds and seven assists on hyper efficient shooting. Along the way, KD passed the legendary Patrick Ewing for 23rd on the all time NBA scoring list. Durant is doing everything possible to keep the Nets near the top of the East, and even with the struggles at home, he will give the Nets as good a chance as any team to win it all when the pressure is amplified in the playoffs.

One thing about the Spurs that’s been consistent across the past three decades is that they are an incredibly disciplined club. This season, they are sixth in turnover rate and sixth in opponent’s free throw rate. Brooklyn will need to take full advantage of the opportunities they get and get off to a better start. They keep falling behind by a ton early and having to dig their way out. It’s not a good way of doing business.

Cam Thomas got some extended run, and made the most of it. He played 28:53, scored a very nice 14 points and gave the Nets another player that can attack the basket and create some rim pressure. That’s been missing from the Nets for much of the year and if Thomas is back in the regular rotation, he’ll help spruce up the offense.

We will not see many threes attempted today. The Spurs are 29th in threes attempted while the Nets are 25th.

A few game previews ago, we discussed the career high in minutes per game Patty Mills has played this season. It looks like it’s started to take its toll, and Steve Nash talked about it after Friday’s game:

“I think we’ve seen him kind of almost be overused and over-dependent on and I think it’s been difficult for him at times to continue his level of play because we’ve overburdened him. He’s been terrific on and off the floor. I mean, he’s unbelievable to have in our group. But we have asked him to play a lot of 30s and high 30s (minutes) during these kinda last month or so. And without Joe. without Kyrie, that’s a lot.”

Harris is a few weeks away from returning and the team will be spending a lot more time outside of NYC in the next few weeks so that guarantees Irving will be there as well. In the meantime, the team hopes Mills can break out of his recent funk.

The center matchup will be interesting. Jakob Poetl is one of the league leaders in blocks and rebounds as he’s helped the Spurs hold teams to only 61.4 percent inside the restricted area, second best mark in the NBA. With LMA still battling his foot issue, that means more opportunities for Nic Claxton. This site is pro dunking on people so we definitely enjoyed this

The Nets need Clax to keep playing big. The more he does, the more forceful the Nets will be on both sides of the ball.

Player to watch: Dejounte Murray

As the Spurs move into the next generation, Murray will be the man leading them on the court. He’s second amongst guards in rebounds and fourth in the NBA in assists as he’s taken a star turn this year. Like damn near everyone in the NBA, he was in COVID protocols which had him out of action for two weeks. Now that he’s back, he’ll look to attack, attack, and attack some more as he puts pressure on opposing defenses. He’s ninth in the league in drives to the basket a game, and for the Nets, they’ll try to wall him off as best they can.

Tempo, tempo, tempo! When the Nets play fast and move the ball, their offense is elite. When they take a long time to get into their sets and aren’t able to generate clean looks quickly, it allows defenses to load up on the stars and put pressure on the role players to create shots under difficult circumstances. That means James Harden needs to be better. He had a dreadful game against the Bucks on Friday night and as the point guard, he has to keep things flowing and stay active. He didn’t get a few calls on his drives to the basket and that helped to short circuit his evening. The Nets need all the scoring punch they can get outside of KD, and that means Harden has to be that guy night in and night out. He can certainly do it, so it’s not the biggest ask in the world.

From the Vault

Always a good time to big up a Liberty legend

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