Coming off a grueling double-overtime affair that cost them their All-Star point guard, San Antonio will have no time to rest as they take on the Brooklyn Nets on the second of a back-to-back. Parker went out midway through last night's game against Washington with tightness in his back, leaving the Spurs looking elsewhere for scoring and playmaking.
Thanks to another great performance (and big minutes) from Tim Duncan, as well as contributions from Patty Mills and Danny Green, the Good Guys pulled off the victory in DC, and we'll see what they have left in the tank after journeying up the east coast for tonight's nationally-televised game in NYC.
The Spurs and the Nets are two of the oldest teams in the league, and two clubs who have more in common than their PR departments might let on. Granted, their payrolls are a bit different, and only one owner could afford to build his own Death Star, but these are two rosters with a single goal in mind to start the season. While both have battled their share of injuries, San Antonio and Brooklyn are currently poised for playoff runs, with the Spurs clinging to second place in the West and the seventh-seed Nets looking to move up and avoid a first-round matchup against the Heat or Pacers.
San Antonio's been playing short-handed since the beginning of the year, while Brooklyn has dealt with the loss of center Brook Lopez and middling injuries to star point guard Deron Williams, as well as Andrei Kirilenko and Andray Blatche. Though the Spurs have looked the far better team thus far, it is Brooklyn who has had the better record since the beginning of 2014. The team went 10-3 in the month of January, and highly criticized head coach Jason Kidd garnered Coach of the Month honors.
After stumbling out the gate, the Nets are finally beginning to look like a playoff team, and much of that has to do with the adjustments they've made and the contributions from role players. Newcomer-but-really-old-dude Kevin Garnett has made the move to center, and the team is getting consistent offensive production from Mirza Teletovic and Shaun Livingston. They're still not sure what they're going to get out of Pierce, Johnson or even Williams on any given night, but any one of those guys is capable of remembering what kind of player they once were and turning it on.
The Spurs will be without Parker again for at least this game, likely putting Cory Joseph into the starting lineup and keeping Patty Mills as the effective scorer off the bench. With a thin lineup and fatigue in mind, Pop may give newly signed Shannon Brown heavier minutes, as well. It would be great to see all three guys push the pace against a team that would rather not run.
Leonard's absence will put extra pressure on the team's wings, who will need to exploit Brooklyn's weak perimeter defense. The Nets are tied for the worst opponents' three-point field-goal percentage in the league, meaning there should be plenty of chances for guys like Marco Belinelli, Danny Green and Brown to do damage.
With Tiago Splitter back in the mix for San Antonio, the Spurs should be able to contain the Nets bigs down low. Where they'll need to double their efforts is around the perimeter, where Johnson, Pierce, and even arguably Brooklyn's most effective big man, Teletovic, are capable of doing damage.
Despite a sub-500 record, Brooklyn has been solid at home, going a respectable 13-11. Of course, San Antonio has been the best road team in the league, and has won the first two games on the Rodeo Road Trip, so that alone won't be a big factor.
More worrying would be the effects of the Wizards game. San Antonio pulled off the victory in DC, but we can expect them to look a step or two slower (and taking it easier) after going an extra two rounds just twenty-four hours earlier. Regardless of how close this one is down the stretch, I don't see Pop giving Timmy another 40 minutes. Following this game the team gets just one day off before heading to Charlotte to take on Al Jefferson and the Bobcats, so we'll keep an eye on what kind of hand Pop decides to play.
Matchup to watch: Tim Duncan vs Kevin Garnett. The Spurs are going to need to hold down two of the league's great iso scorers in Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson, but watching two of the best two-way big men go at it one more time will be worth the price of admission by itself.
Nets perspective may be found at Nets Daily.
Game Prediction: Nets by 5.
Line in Vegas: Nets by 6.
As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and NBA League Pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area. Please don't post links to illegal game feeds in the game thread. Links to illegal feeds are not permitted on SBNation, but you can probably find them out there on the internets if you're resourceful and desperate.
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