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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Brooklyn Nets

The Spurs try to keep forward momentum going against the Star-Studded Nets

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at San Antonio Spurs Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

After an improbable twenty-one point drubbing of the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday evening, the San Antonio Spurs will enter Brooklyn intent to steal yet another game from a postseason contender.

The second game in their final road series of three, as well as the first contest of the closing two back-to-backs (with one day of rest between the pair) that make up the dreaded FIGISINI, San Antonio will need to take advantage of one of their last bits of rest in a regular season that is barrelling towards the finish, as well as a Brooklyn team that still isn’t quite up to full strength just yet.

It goes almost without saying that the Brooklyn Nets have been an offensive juggernaut whenever their three superstar players (Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving) have all been available, but even with extended absences from each, Brooklyn is still 1st in the league in offensive efficiency, 2nd in scoring, 7th in 3-point volume, and 4th in 3-point percentage.

Outside of injuries, their weaknesses have been on the defensive end (23rd), and in the post, where they have largely employed an array of aging and/or limited big men. Thankfully, both of these areas have become a relative strength for the Spurs, with the rise of Jakob Poeltl, the acquisition of Gorgui Dieng, and the gradual improvement that has seen San Antonio once again nearing the Top 10 defensively (12th), after a rough stretch in the middle of the season.

Both teams should enter this showdown hungry, though for the Spurs this will be merely to make the play-in, while Brooklyn will be looking to increase their fluidity and cohesiveness for the postseason, having already secured their berth. Whether James Harden will make an appearance after a long layoff is anyone’s guess, but news outlets have reported that he’s looking to play in at least two of Brooklyn’s last three games, if not all three.

That would be yet another bit of bad luck for a Spurs team hunting down a clinching win, as Brooklyn’s been a buzz-saw with Harden on the court, specifically, but they’ll just have to make do if so. After taking down one of the NBA’s best teams in Milwaukee, San Antonio should have restored some of their own confidence in the process, and with any luck that’ll carry over in this one.

San Antonio Spurs @ Brooklyn Nets

May 12, 2021 | 7:00 PM CT

Watch: BSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: Trey Lyles - Questionable (Ankle), Derrick White - Out (Ankle)

Nets Injuries: Spencer Dinwiddie - Out (Knee), Chris Chiozza - Out (Hand), Bruce Brown - Day-to-Day (Face), James Harden - Day-to-Day (Hamstring)

What to watch for:

  • Returning To The Mean: Almost shockingly, it was long-distance shooting that fueled the Spurs’ win over the Bucks on Monday night, as they gave one of their best performances of the season from distance to the tune of 17-29 (58.6%) from downtown. The Spurs shooting well from beyond the arc has long been a team standard, but this season they’ve ranked in- or-near the bottom third of the NBA for most of the year. However, their most recent stretch had been baffling awful, as the Silver and Black shot a crushing 32% from three-point land from April 25th to May 9th, good for 2nd worst in the league, and almost 4% lower than their season average. Granted, three-point shooting almost always carries a more variable quality than most shots, but it’s clear the Spurs (like most teams) simply cannot win consistently without shooting at (or near) the league average in the area. Hopefully Monday’s contest was a sign of things to come, or even just the beginning of a return to the season average. If so, you have to like the Spurs chances in spite of their brutal ending slate.
  • The Rise of a Balanced Attack(?): It may have gone a bit unnoticed to due the five game losing streak, but the Spurs have begun to spread out their offensive contributions for the first time this year. Certainly injuries and absences have been preventing San Antonio from achieving full offensive cohesiveness, but the Spurs have had at least 5 players score in double figures in seven of the last eleven games, going 4-3 in those contests. Balanced scoring has been a staple of Spurs teams in the past, but over the last several seasons has fallen a bit by the wayside as LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan, and Rudy Gay have carried the offensive burden for long stretches. Whether it’s the result of recent desperation, or just the sign of a team finally beginning to figure out how flow more evenly on the offensive end is hard to say, but it’s an interesting development nonetheless, and with the off-season on the horizon, hopefully here to stay.

For the Nets’ fans’ perspective, visit NetsDaily.

PtR’s Game thread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.