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Spurs blitz Nets in second half, win going away

San Antonio's "Big Three" notch their 540th regular season win together to tie legendary Celtics trio.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Game 2 Vs. Brooklyn: Spurs 102-75     Rec: 1-1  T-1st in Southwest T-5th in West

Nets coach Lionel Hollins, whose previous stop was with the Memphis Grizzlies barking instruction at Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, was asked before the Spurs home opener about the adjustment Gregg Popovich faces adding LaMarcus Aldridge to the team. What are the advantages and disadvantages of having two All-Star caliber bigs patrolling the paint in the modern "pace-and-space" era?

Hollins, who's made no secret of his skepticism for analytics, was almost bewildered by the notion of there being a downside to the Duncan-Aldridge pairing.

"There are no disadvantages at all," he replied quickly. "They're all advantages. Especially if you have both who can shoot outside and both who can post up and both are willing to the pass the ball to the other, and they rebound and block shots, whatever they do defensively, I think every team would like to have two really talented big people."

The long-term narrative about the Spurs acquisition of Aldridge is that he'll be groomed to be Duncan's successor so that there's no significant drop-off for once Duncan finally hangs 'em up. In the short term though the idea is that the two of them, with help from the rest of the supporting cast of course, will make magic together reminiscent of the twin-tower days with Duncan and David Robinson and help the Spurs challenge for the title this season.

Which naturally begs the question: Just exactly what is Popovich thinking about when he elects to have neither Duncan nor Aldridge on the floor, much less the two of them together?

The Boris Diaw/David West pairing killed the Spurs in their season-opening loss at Oklahoma City. Absolutely murdered them. Russell Westbrook had an open highway to the rim and Enes Kanter came up with a half dozen offensive boards and a few inside buckets.

On Friday, in San Antonio's 102-75 nail-biter-turned-blowout win at the AT&T Center against the Nets, Popovich again went with the relatively undersized pair, from 2:30 remaining in the first quarter to 8:10 left in the second. In that time a two-point lead turned into a three-point deficit, and while a 17-12 stretch of basketball in 6:20 doesn't seem like that big of a deal, that works out to a rather ugly 129-91 over a whole game.

And these weren't world-beaters the reserves were facing. They gave up five uncontested layups to Bojan Bogdanovic, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Shane Larkin.

If that wasn't alarming enough, it was Kyle Anderson who got burned for two consecutive layups by Hollis-Jefferson, a rookie, and it earned him a quick hook by Pop in favor of Rasual Butler.

Only the Nets' glaring lack of talent and a pair of buzzer-beating threes at the end of the first and second quarters by Butler and Manu Ginobili kept the Spurs from being curb-stomped by half-time. They were completely disjointed on offence, shooting 39.5 percent, sloppy with 10 turnovers and with just four free-throw attempts to their name. They trailed 47-42 and were fortunate in the extreme to be down so few.

As brilliant as Kawhi Leonard was in the loss to the Thunder, he was that bad in front of his fans against the Nets, missing open shots, forcing others and feuding with the refs. He visibly showed his frustrating when Pop yanked him in the second quarter in favor of Anderson.

San Antonio's best player in the opening half, quietly, was Aldridge. He passed up a couple of open shots, but scored four of his five field goals on easy put-backs.

"He'll shoot more when he's comfortable," Pop explained afterward. "He's trying to do what new guys do, he's gonna defer here and there, try to fit in."

In the second half, Pop changed tactics. West and Anderson were shelved until garbage-time and the Spurs went to an eight-man rotation, heavy on "corporate knowledge."

Tony Parker, who missed shoot-around in the morning because the road from his house was flooded, scored four quick buckets on Jarrett Jack, a couple inside and a couple on pull-ups. Then Leonard found his stroke making three from mid-range and adding an alley-oop from Duncan. The Spurs stuck to a three-man rotation with their bigs, did likewise at the wing, and Mills hit a couple buckets subbing for Parker. When the dust settled the Spurs led 76-64 after three quarters, outscoring the Nets 34-17 in the period and benefiting from seven Brooklyn giveaways.

There were also dizzying "beautiful game" sequences like this...

It was more of the same in the fourth until Hollins waved the white flag halfway through. Duncan scored nine of 11 Spurs points in a 16-6 run and the rout was on, 92-70. The Spurs outscored the Nets 60-28 in the second half, and having a capable rim protector the whole probably had something to do with it. Aldridge was held scoreless after intermission, taking just two shots, but he was a team-best +23 in that time and had a couple of dimes.

The story afterward was that Duncan, Parker and Ginobili were solid in the second half and the win was their 540th in the regular season as a trio, tying Boston's Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish for the most all-time.

"The speed is a little different with which we execute," Ginobili replied with a smile when asked if it felt like old times, "but it makes it even better when you are on the court and you can appreciate that you have that type of familiarity. I've played with TD and Tony for 14 years and with Pop coaching us for 14 years, but Matt [Bonner] has 10 [years with the team] and many of the new guys have three, four, five, so it makes the day-to-day thing much more enjoyable. I appreciate that too, not only the wins."

That's when you know you've been around for a while, when you still think of people like Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard as "the new guys."

They all surrounded the newest guy, with and it made all the difference.

Those who stayed til the end both in the arena and watching at home were treated to the Spurs debut of Boban Marjanovic, who scored a million points and pulled down five thousand rebounds and that's my story and I'm sticking to it.