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That’s a dozen! Nets extend winning streak at home against Spurs, 139-103

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NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Brooklyn Nets Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

A new calendar year wasn’t going to slow down the Brooklyn Nets’ winning ways.

After the winningest month in franchise history, Brooklyn extended its winning streak to twelve in dominant fashion against the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night with a 139-103 victory, never trailing.

“That first group really set the tone and we didn’t skip a beat,” head coach Jacque Vaughn said postgame. “That’s what we’ve been talking about as a group. No excuses. Another great challenge for our group to start the year off the right way.”

The Nets are now only one game behind the first-seeded Celtics in the Eastern Conference standings (one win and one loss) with a record of 25-12.

Kyrie Irving led the way in scoring with 27 points on an efficient 11-of-14 outing shooting from the field, also pulling in eight rebounds and helping out on the boards for many more. Co-star Kevin Durant wasn’t far behind with 25 points of his own on 10-of-14 shooting, and notched a double-double with 11 additional assists.

The first quarter was The Kyrie Irving Show, almost immediately notching fifteen points on perfect 6-of-6 shooting from the field, including three triples and just as many dazzling finishes at the rim. With Day’Ron Sharpe briefly re-entered Vaughn’s rotation for the first time since the Nets rolled out their B-Team against Indiana on December 10th, but did not record any stats. Joe Harris returned to action after checking in with 3:36 remaining in the period and immediately got to work, nailing his first 3-pointer and another pull-up jumper from mid range.

Brooklyn didn’t take its foot off the gas pedal in the second quarter, and neither did Kyrie Irving. Yuta Watanabe got the scoring started in the second frame with a long-range hit and then a driving dunk. When “Yuta the Shoota” was finally off target, Kyrie Irving snaked into the lane for a putback slam — his first dunk of the season — that brought the Barclays Center crowd to its feet, especially after the star guard encouraged the fans.

“This is my city,” shouted Irving to the fans in the arena.

“Man, I’m this close of getting tired of people downplaying my athleticism at times in that locker room,” Irving joked postgame. “But on a serious note, I’m happy I can do those type of plays to galvanize the group. Glad it went in, good timing.

The Nets played the highlight in the locker room afterwards, with Vaughn noting that “celebrating each other” is a key part of the team-building. “For him to have a dunk, and our guys appreciate it, and enjoy it, and really cheer him on is pretty cool.”
“It felt like 2K honestly,” Ben Simmons said. “I didn’t know he could do that.”

Seth Curry continued the scoring barrage for the home team with three 3-pointers. From there, Durant took it upon himself to extend Brooklyn’s lead to as many as 28 points. The Nets led 74-47 after two quarters.

The Nets looked to extend their lead after the break, eclipsing the 100-point mark on a signature KD pull-up jump shot at the 2:07 mark. Brooklyn saw its lead balloon to 31 points, ultimately leading, 108-79 with twelve minutes of action remaining. Monday night marked the second time this season the Nets were in triple digits through three quarters of play, the other coming on December 21 against the Golden State Warriors.

Holding onto a 29-point lead, the Nets rested their stars for the final quarter and allowed the likes of Cam Thomas, Day’Ron Sharpe and Patty Mills play it out against the lowly, Wembanyama-hopeful Spurs. San Antonio never got within 29 points and the Nets were victorious in wire-to-wire fashion, 139-103.

The Nets were relatively short handed on Monday, missing veteran wings Markeiff Morris and Royce O’Neale due a non-COVID illness. Both players were ruled out on Monday and were not listed on Brooklyn’s initial injury report, with O’Neale absence being confirmed within an hour of tip-off. Postgame, Vaughn noted that although “there is a little bug that’s going around a little bit,” the plan is for Morris and O’Neale to travel with the team on the upcoming road trip unless there are any unforeseen developments.

“We got a chance to sleep at home, which was nice,” Vaughn commented, summing things up. “It felt good to be home, take advantage of that, and now let’s take the challenge of playing three on the road. I think we are excited about paying, and playing on the road and what that next challenge is. I think we’re excited to play Chicago and we’ll move on from there.”

Milestone Watch

  • With the Nets’ win over San Antonio, they’ve won their...

-12th straight win (longest win streak in the league this season and third-longest in franchise history).

-16th win in their last 17 games and 19th win in their last 22.

-Five straight home wins and 11 wins in their last 12 home games.

  • The Nets cracked the 100-point mark through three quarters for the second time this season. Brooklyn tallied 109 points through three quarters on December 21 vs. Golden State.

Jacque Vaughn on how Gregg Popovich put him in position

Jacque Vaughn is a branch of the Gregg Popovich coaching tree. He played under Pop, winning a title in 2007, then was an assistant under him for three seasons before taking the head coaching job with a rebuilding Orlando team. When that didn’t work out, Pop welcomed him back as a scout. Then in 2016 Sean Marks, who was assistant GM in San Antonio, offered Vaughn the Nets assistant job under Kenny Atkinson.

Asked about what Popovich and San Antonio mean to him, JV did not hold back.

“I’m in this position because of him,” Vaughn said. “He saw something in me as a player, saw something in me when I was done playing, to have me a part of that organization, to share an office with him to see how he prepared for regular season games, for playoff games, for shootarounds. To see how he cared for my family, to see how he’s still a mentor to me — I can call and talk to him about my kids, my wife, my job, all of the above.

”So very important person in my life, and I wouldn’t be here without him.”

Popovich returned the favor.

“He’s just one of those guys who is a natural, high basketball IQ guy who knows what’s going on,” Popovich said of Vaughn. “He wasn’t the most talented player in the world. Usually, those guys have to figure out how they’re going to make a career for themselves and what they’re going to do to become important to a team. And what is important to a team is what makes you a valuable teammate ...

“He intrinsically understood what was going on ... time, spacing, clock, scores, [and] engendered the respect of his teammates, because of the way he played, the example he set up, all sorts of things.”

The Brooklyn coaching staff and front office are filled with Pop disciples beyond Marks and Vaughn. Assistant coach Tiago Splitter played in San Antonio while assistant coach Brian Keefe was a video assistant there as well. Coaching analytics director Logan MacPhail spent three years in the Spurs organization and Assistant GM Andy Birdsong got his NBA start in San Antonio.

Futbol stars make an appearance

There were two big moments for fans last night, one on the court — the Kyrie putback — and the other just off it, Seated between the team and the scorers table were soccer stars Kylian Mbappé of France and Achraf Hakimi of Morocco, both big stars of the recently concluded World Cup in Qatar. When they were introduced, Barclays Center exploded. Both play for Paris Saint Germain which lost Sunday and their coach decided to give them a few days off to wind down after the Cup.

So they jetted to New York to take in the Nets-Spurs ... and Kevin Durant!

Post-game, there was the traditional exchange of jerseys, then a visit to the Nets locker room.

“Great game, guys. Congratulations. It was really fun to watch. Good luck for the season,” Mbappe said as he made his way around the dressing room. PSG is owned by Qatar, one of its many sports investments around the world. Qatar Airways is one of the Nets and Barclays Center’s biggest sponsors.

As Sponge Bob might say...

What’s Next?

After three road games before Monday, the Nets only got one night back in their beds before turning back to the road for their next three matchups.

First up is the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night at United Center. The game is scheduled for 8:00pm ET.

For a different perspective on tonight’s game, head to Pounding the Rock, our Spurs sister site.