With the news coming out that LaMarcus Aldridge would not be returning for this game, it was already looking like a tough match-up was ahead for the Spurs against a Brooklyn Nets team that, despite missing Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, has plenty of length: a kryptonite of the current state of the Spurs. Combine that with the Nets being motivated after getting called out by their coach for a lack of effort, and the Silver and Black were in trouble form the outset.
The Spurs started super small with Derrick White replacing Drew Eubanks. While it was nice to finally see Dejounte Murray and White starting together, it wasn’t exactly what most had in mind, and going without a center may not have been the best approach against a team with the size of the Nets (even if it may not have made a big difference in the grand scheme of things).
Not only were the Spurs completely overwhelmed in the paint and on the boards by Jarrett Allen and DeAndre Jordan, but their stud defensive duo couldn’t stop the Nets from penetrating from the perimeter. Even when they, did the Nets guards just threw up alley-oops over a completely outmatched Trey Lyles. The Spurs couldn’t create any open looks themselves, missed what few they had, and found themselves down 41-22 at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter wasn’t any better, as the Nets continued to get what they wanted on offense while the Spurs couldn’t buy a bucket. The Nets stretched the lead as far as 33 a couple of times, including to 71-38 with under 5 minutes left in the half before the Spurs found just enough juice for a 16-4 run, somehow making a 21-point deficit at halftime seem “not that bad”, all things considered.
By this point the Spurs offense had arrived at Barclays Center, and with Rudy Gay starting the third quarter in place of White, the Spurs continued to attempt the comeback, briefly finding enough defense to get within 15 points. However, the Nets woke up enough to get the lead back into the 20’s, and for the rest of the way the teams traded buckets in a defense-optional match that ended with a final score of 120-95.
Oh wait! That was just the end third quarter, where both teams scored over 40 points (a combined 86, to be exact). That meant there was whole other quarter to be played, but anyone who stuck around at least got to see Luka Samanic make his NBA debut. Add Eubanks, Keldon Johnson, Quinndary Weatherspoon and Austin alumni White and Murray to the fourth quarter rotation, and it was almost a true G-League line-up out there.
Perhaps to no one’s surprise, this group played harder than any other, winning the only quarter on the night for the Spurs 26-19 for a final score of 139-121. (And it wasn’t all against the end of the Nets’ bench.) For those wondering, Samanic didn’t play a huge role in that, at least on offense. He missed his only four shots but recorded 2 rebounds and 3 assists. Perhaps the most notable takeaway was his defensive rotations were relatively crisp for this being his NBA debut, garbage time or not.
The other youngster who stuck out was Johnson, who recorded a career-highs of 13 points and 5 rebounds in 21 minutes and was a team-high +11 while on the court. (For reference, all of the starters except White was -20 or worse, led by -31 from Murray.) It was also noticeable that Gregg Popovich seemed more engaged in coaching this group than the rest of the game. Does this mean anything about the future? Who knows, but it’s something of note taken from what was otherwise one of the worst Spurs games I’ve ever watched (which feels weird saying about a 19-point loss).
- Lyles continued to be a bright spot for the Spurs on offense, scoring 19-points and tying his career high of 5 made three-pointers. DeMar DeRozan also woke up from his recent offensive slumber with 24 points on 10-13 shooting, although (like everyone else’s points) they were mostly after it was already a blowout.
- Lonnie Walker IV left the game in the third quarter after an awkward landing on a lay-up attempt. It was announced he had a shin contusion and would not return to the game. Thank goodness it wasn’t something worse, but hopefully he’s not out long. The Spurs cannot afford any more injuries, and even if the playoffs are all but out of the picture, he needs the playing time to develop.
- Pop just needs to start using his Coach’s Challenge willy-nilly. Yet again, the opposing coach used his challenge early, and it worked. This time it was Kenny Atkinson in the first quarter with the Nets up 32-14 on what would have been and-1 for Patty Mills. The challenge was successful as video review showed Mills initiated the contact with his off arm, and the call was changed to an offensive foul. The Nets answered with a three-pointer of their own for a 6-point swing that the Spurs did not need at that point.
- I’ve been waiting all season to say this: the Nets’ weird grey court hurts my eyes, especially the way it makes the players seemingly glow against the backdrop. Also, WHAT DID THE NETS DO THAT THE SPURS HAVEN’T TO EARN FIESTA COLORS??? End of rant. (Note: this was written before the game was played.)
The Spurs finish their three-game road trip on Sunday against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Tip-off will be at 6:30 PM CT on FSSW. For those in areas that practice Daylight Savings, remember to set your clocks ahead an hour on Saturday night!