It's hard to describe just how out of sync the Spurs looked to start the game. Not playing against the 76ers on Monday surely did wonders for Tony Parker's and Tim Duncan's legs but it robbed them of their rhythm. Duncan couldn't buy a bucket early, missing his first seven shots. Parker, meanwhile, got on the board late and didn't seem sharp at all on either end. Fortunately for the Spurs, the outside shots were not falling for the Nets, which prevented them from creating separation in the scoreboard despite good performances from Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. The game was tied at 19 after one.
The benches started the second quarter with the Spurs' managing to get a small lead despite not looking as potent as in its best days. As the stars returned for both teams so did the uncharacteristically ugly play. The Spurs snapped out of the funk first thanks to a much improved Tim Duncan. But in a role reversal of sorts, the Nets were the ones surviving thanks to outside shots, often courtesy of Mirza Teletovic. Neither team was playing remotely well, as Leonard neutralized Johnson and the Spurs couldn't corral defensive boards. San Antonio mostly sleep-walked through the entire first half but somehow finished up two, 42-40, after a Ginobili three-pointer.
Any hopes that the Spurs' offense was going to start clicking at some point evaporated with a terrible start to the second half. For some reason the starters seemed to lack the energy to even run a basic zone defense or move with purpose on offense. The Nets quickly went on a 19-4 run and Pop turned to the bench, looking for a spark. The subs and Danny Green played with a bigger sense of urgency but Brooklyn remained focused and weathered the storm. Going into the final quarter the lead was 10, 68-58 Nets.
Pop stuck to his guns and went with the same lineup to start the fourth but it quickly became clear the bench wasn't going to save the Spurs this time. He brought the starters and Manu back only to see that lineup fail as well. As a last resort Pop decided to bench Parker in favor a more tenacious defender in Cory Joseph and went small with Leonard at power forward. That did the trick. Suddenly the defense tightened up and the Spurs were out-hustling the Nets. With three-pointers from Ginobili and Green they chipped away at the lead.
Down three and with seven seconds to go, Pop drew up this pretty play to give Danny Green the room he needed to tie the game at 88 and send it to overtime.
After that late surge, things went back to the way they had been for most of the game, unfortunately. Shots were rimming out for the Spurs and going in for the Nets in overtime. A Joe Johnson bucket gave the Nets a five-point lead with 1:54 to go. Yet San Antonio had a chance to steal it thanks to a strange sequence of mistakes.
First, Danny Green fouled with Brooklyn up two, 15 seconds on the game clock, 10 on the shot clock and the Spurs still not in the penalty. By simply inbounding and waiting for the foul, the Nets would have had the possibility to get their lead to four. But they botched the inbounds play as Bojan Bogdanovic overshot the pass, forcing Deron Williams to pass the ball back to him before committing a back court violation. Manu Ginobili and Cory Joseph were attentive enough to double him instead of fouling, using the sideline to further restrict him. As a result they forced a turnover with nine seconds to go.
Alas, it was not meant to be for San Antonio on Wednesday. Manu had a chance to win it on a three-pointer but couldn't connect. Cory Joseph and Brook Lopez both got to the ball after no one could secure the rebound but there were only two tenths of a second on the clock when they jumped for it. The Spurs didn't deserve to win this game; the Nets, without playing great, were the better team. But it always hurts when you come this close to stealing one only to fall short.
- Joseph, Ginobili, Leonard and Duncan couldn't hit any field goals in the extra period yet they took nine of the team's 10 shots. Danny Green, whose hot shooting was the only reason the Spurs had a chance to win, only had one look, which he converted, out of a baseline hammer play. Needless to say, the shot selection in overtime wasn't great.
- Cory Joseph earned those crunch time minutes in Parker's place tonight with his usual hustle and some tough defense on Deron Williams. The Spurs could have used Tony's shot creation in overtime but Pop decided to stick with Cory after his good performance in regulation and I can't blame him.
- The Spurs shot 35% from the field (37% from three). It was a miracle they even had a chance to win the game. Only Manu Ginobili and Danny Green played well throughout. No one else was particularly good on offense, with Boris Diaw, Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan going a combined 9-40. It was just one of those games.
- This was the first time this season in which I couldn't shake the feeling that Patty Mills would have made a huge difference. With the team missing close to the basket, you can never have too many outside shooters.
- Going against better opponents, Aron Baynes couldn't set any personal records or even score in double digits, like he had the previous three games. But he was solid on both ends and continues to cement his place as the fourth big.
- Since this was the second game of a back-to-back for the Nets, Kevin Garnett decided to sit it out. It's very possible that was the last chance for a Garnett vs. Duncan game. It's OK. The rivalry died the day Garnett stopped being an impact player.
Vine of the night
Baynes caught everyone on the Nets off guard with his hops. Even the Nets announcer seems surprised. Great dunk by The Big Banger.
Credit should definitely go to the Nets for playing better most of the game, then gutting out a win when the Spurs attempted the comeback. But San Antonio really played poorly. Which is especially worrisome since they have a date with the Memphis Grizzlies in The Grindhouse on Friday. A similar effort against a red hot Grizzlies team will end up in a blowout, so let's hope this game was an anomaly.
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