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Spurs overcome by Nets firepower in Harden’s return

San Antonio played a decent game in Brooklyn but were unable to deal with the Beard.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Brooklyn Nets Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Following a historic win over Milwaukee on Monday, the Spurs looked to maintain their momentum against the Nets. While the good guys played a respectable game, Brooklyn’s offense was overwhelming, resulting in a 128-116 loss.

Both teams started the game on fire, combining to make five consecutive shots right after tipoff. The two sides traded baskets on each possession, which was highlighted by an absurd circus shot from Demar DeRozan. While the Nets continued to score, San Antonio’s offense sputtered. The good guys began missing easy looks and blowing wide-open layups and dunks. Meanwhile, Brooklyn stayed hot and went on a 13-0 run to build an early lead. The Spurs tried to play some zone to take driving lanes away, but this resulted in open threes for the Nets as they continued to score at will.

Thankfully, San Antonio was able to flip the script and get back in the game due to some timely buckets from their bench. Rudy Gay scored eight points in under four minutes to trim the Nets’ lead down to single digits. Back-to-back threes from Lonnie Walker IV contributed to a 20-6 run that pulled the Spurs within one. Unfortunately, Brooklyn regained their footing when James Harden checked in the game. Even though Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are bonafide superstars, they don’t provide the same level of playmaking as Harden does. The Beard created easy buckets for his teammates right away, as the Nets went into halftime leading 57-51.

The floodgates opened after the break, especially for the Nets since they had both Harden and Durant in the game. Brooklyn seemed to score without trying, and it wasn’t because of their two former MVPs, either; Shamet caught fire from deep and finished the game with five threes on seven attempts, while Nicolas Claxton terrorized the paint and rocked the rim on a few occasions. The Spurs managed to generate consistent offense as well, with DeRozan hitting mid-rangers and Patty Mills providing his usual spark off the bench. Even so, the Nets just seemed unstoppable and they were soon flirting with a 20 point lead.

Yet consecutive threes from Mills made things slightly interested as that cut Brooklyn’s lead down to 13. However, the Nets flipped the switch and went on another run that made Pop pull the starters with over eight minutes left in the fourth. San Antonio’s youngsters surprisingly made it an 11 point contest and gave the Spurs some hope, but Brooklyn once again hit the gas to officially put the game out of reach. It just seemed like the Nets were toying with the good guys for most of the night, as they would get bored and let San Antonio back in the game before going on scoring binges to regain a large lead. Brooklyn has done this for the entire season so I’m not too concerned about the loss, and the Spurs just need to move on and focus on tomorrow’s showdown against the Knicks, who have been one of the league’s hottest teams over the past month.

Game notes

  • San Antonio finished the first quarter without a single assist, which was the first time that happened this season. Their playmaking struggles line up in the boxscore, as the Nets jumped out to a 35-20 lead after the opening frame. The good news is that the offense still looked fluid and in sync, but the players were just missing easy shots, so don’t worry about this happening again.
  • Dejounte Murray struggled with his shot tonight, going 7-17 from the field and 0-2 from behind the arc. He was especially cold in the first half, at one point only hitting three of his 12 attempts. It goes without saying that DJ impacts the game even without efficient scoring, but the Spurs will need him to be more consistent if they hope to make some noise in the play-in tournament.
  • Even though he played over 20 minutes, Devin Vassell also struggled with his shot. The rookie converted on just two of nine attempts from the field and went 0-6 from three, including an ugly airball to end the first quarter. However, I like the fact that he continued shooting even though his shots weren’t falling. All his attempts were decent looks, and he wasn’t forcing anything so the percentages will swing in his favor soon.
  • Surprisingly, Harden and Durant only combined for 32 points in the game, but they did have 18 assists. The Spurs did a decent job of taking away their scoring opportunities but that left Brooklyn’s role players wide open, as seven Nets scored in double digits. I honestly don’t think there’s much more that San Antonio could’ve done to slow down their offense. There’s a reason why many consider Brooklyn to be title favourites.
  • The Spurs are now three games behind Memphis for ninth in the West but two and a half games up from New Orleans following their loss to Dallas. A play-in spot is all but guaranteed at this point, but that doesn’t mean the team can get complacent. They’ll need to fire on all cylinders, as winning two consecutive games against the Grizzlies and Lakers/Warriors will obviously be a tall task.

Next game: at New York on Thursday

The Knicks have been one of the best teams lately but just came off a disappointing loss to the Lakers that went to OT, so hopefully they’ll be more tired than usual heading into tomorrow’s game.