After a close game against the Knicks on Friday it was good to see the Spurs trotting out their garbage time lineup for most of the fourth quarter. Their 106-79 victory over the Nets on the road was as lopsided as the final score suggests, which is exactly what the team needed in the first game of a back-to-back. LaMarcus Aldridge led all scorer with 25 points while Kawhi Leonard pitched in 17. Brook Lopez had 18 for Brooklyn in the losing effort.
The Nets were playing their first game after a big shakeup and got the "our coach was just fired" bounce to their step early on. They played terrific defense for several possessions, making crisp rotations and disrupting the flow of the Spurs' offense. With Brook Lopez providing the scoring, they managed to hang around for a while against arguably the best team in the league right now. Yet it was obvious even then that the parity of the initial minutes wasn't going to last.
Slowly but surely the defensive cohesiveness started to disappear as the Spurs got sharper. Once San Antonio survived those early minutes and started to play with a little more urgency, creating separation wasn't hard. A seven-point lead is never enough to call a game but considering the third worst offense in the league was facing the best defense, it was impossible to imagine a scenario in which the Nets could turn things around in the second half. The game was essentially over by halftime.
The Spurs built on their lead and secured the win late in the third quarter by going on a 17-6 run to end the period. Boban Marjanovic had seven points in five minutes as the bench made its mark. Going into the fourth quarter San Antonio led by 21. The Nets made one small, final push to get it down to 15 but Aldridge and Leonard had seven unanswered points to deliver the coup de grace. It was smooth sailing from there on out.
The Spurs beat Brooklyn by 27 points, the 10th time in the year they have outscored their opponent by 25 points or more, tying a franchise record not even halfway into the season.
- It's so comforting to have stars to deliver these random January wins. Aldridge and Leonard were the two best players on the court and they made sure to make that clear. They hit shots and made plays when the Spurs' needed them. Aldridge carried the offense during the sloppy first half and Leonard took over in the second. Good stuff from the Spurs' leading scorers.
- Leonard led the team in minutes with 29:33 and Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili were all on the court for fewer than 25 minutes. 12 players got at least 10 minutes of run. That's just the ideal minute allocation for the first game of a back-to-back. Gregg Popovich might decide to rest someone on Tuesday anyway but everyone should be ready to go.
- Kyle Anderson checked in before Jonathon Simmons in the first half. It's a good thing that Gregg Popovich is still giving Slowmo opportunities to earn playing time, especially against bad teams. He's also from New Jersey and might have had family and friends in the arena, since this is the last time the Spurs visit New York this year (unless they meet the Knicks in the finals). That likely had not effect on Pop's decision to play him but I like to think it did. Anderson did well in his 17 minutes on the court, tallying five points, four rebounds and three assists.
- BOBAN! I have to admit that I've felt uncomfortable at times with the way some fans have treated Marjanovic. It was like he was a joke or a freak. The guy is in the NBA because he deserves it, obviously, so it made no sense to me that people made such a big deal out of every good play he had. Now I'm starting to realize that I might have misjudged some of those reactions. It's just fun to get excited when he does cool things, like this pass.
Boban finished the game with 13 points and made some new fans in Brooklyn, going by the crowd's reaction to his buckets.
Tea Time and Manu combined for 20 points and nine assists. Heaven is watching those two play basketball.
- It must be hard to be a Nets' fan right now. Things have to be looking gloomy after five years packed with disappointments. They might also have to witness a top five pick go to the Celtics next offseason after missing out on Derrick Favors and Damian Lillard, which is just brutal. That being said, Brooklyn might not be as doomed as many think.
Lopez is a quality piece and they will have plenty of cap space next summer. They won't likely even get a meeting with the top free agents but they can add some depth and make a run at the eighth seed in 2017. After that, they could have max room again and a better reputation heading into another offseason. The key for the Nets will be to be patient this time around. If they can do that, they will be fine.
The Spurs will visit Aron Baynes and the Pistons on Tuesday. It will be interesting to see how the defense handles a great pick and roll team. The perimeter players have done a great job containing ball handlers so far this season but Reggie Jackson is slippery. Duncan on Andre Drummond will also be a fun matchup.
For the opponents' perspective, visit Nets Daily.