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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Brooklyn Nets

The Alamo City’s finest take on a red-hot road team in the Brooklyn Nets.

San Antonio Spurs v Brooklyn Nets Photo by David L. Nemec/NBAE via Getty Images

The San Antonio Spurs took care of business against a struggling Oklahoma City Thunder team on Wednesday night, raking in their third win since December 27th. They will need the strong team performance they put on display in that win again tonight as a red-hot road team in the Brooklyn Nets comes to town.

Brooklyn will be without Kevin Durant for their second meeting against the Silver and Black, but they should still have more than enough firepower to stay afloat offensively, with James Harden and part-time player Kyrie Irving back for road games. Oh, and Patty Mills will be making his return to San Antonio, and Spurs fans all know how he can light up the AT&T Center.

Although the Spurs put up a strong fight in their recent OT loss in Brooklyn, these are still two teams heading in opposite directions as far as their aspirations for the 2021-22 season go. San Antonio’s looking to develop young talent and see who is here to stay for the long haul, Brooklyn’s season lives or dies on whether or not they hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy.

San Antonio Spurs (17-28) vs. Brooklyn Nets (28-16)

January 21, 2022 | 7:30 PM CT

Watch: Bally Sports Southwest | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: Zach Collins (Out — On Assignment), Josh Primo (Out — On Assignment), Devontae Cacok (Out — On Assignment)

Nets Injuries: Kevin Durant (Out — Knee), Paul Millsap (Out — Personal), Joe Harris (Out — Ankle), Nic Claxton (Questionable — Hamstring), DeAndre’ Bembry (Day-to-Day — Back)

What to watch for:

  • How will San Antonio take care of Brooklyn’s half-court offense? Heading into the 2021-22 season, many believed that the Spurs' bread would be made on the defensive end of the floor. With San Antonio’s plethora of perimeter defensive talent and a stout rim protector in Jakob Poeltl on the back end to clean things up, there was a clear path to success if San Antonio was going to prevail as a playoff contender. Unfortunately, San Antonio‘s defense has been middle of the pack at best in terms of defensive rating and as a half-court defense, they give up the 18th most points per 100 possessions. Per Cleaning the Glass, the Brooklyn Nets have the 5th best half-court offense as they average 113.4 points per 100 possessions, and they average 98.4 points per 100 half-court plays, which places them 3rd-best in the league. Despite the Nets being without Kevin Durant on Friday night, they have two excellent half-court initiators in James Harden and Kyrie Irving who can make the Spurs' life a nightmare in the half court. For San Antonio to beat Brooklyn on Friday night, they must set the tone early and often with their defense, particularly in the half-court. If the Spurs do in fact bring home a win, it’ll likely be due to their effectiveness and activity on the defensive end of the floor.
  • Devin Vassell’s continued success in January: Since the start of the new year, second-year forward Devin Vassell has found his game again after a tough stretch of hoops in December. Vassell’s month of January shows him averaging 14 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.1 assists while boasting a true shooting percentage of 55%. He’s also found his three-point shooting stroke, shooting 38.2% from deep this month, the second-highest clip of his sophomore season. After a lights out performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night where Vassell stuffed the stat sheet en route to being a +20 on the night, San Antonio could be looking for the second-year wing to take that next step as potentially a player that they can insert into the starting lineup long-term. For San Antonio to have success not only on Friday but over the next few months remaining in this season, they need someone like Vassell to provide a spark on both ends of the floor.
  • Will Wednesday’s performance carry over into this matchup? Here’s a shot of reality, the Spurs aren’t playing one of the worst teams in the NBA on Friday night. Shocker. But, this team hasn’t been able to stack wins on top of one another throughout this season. This year, the Spurs are 5-11 coming off of wins in 2021-22, it seems as if this team either wins three games consecutively or they lose four straight, there isn’t much in-between. San Antonio’s players and staff may have playoff hopes and with a real shot of making the play-in tournament, there is a route for them to take. In order for them to do so, they must be able to win back-to-back games and finally build some momentum heading into the dreadful Rodeo Road Trip next month. Hopefully, for this team, the start of something begins with a win against a 16-5 road team in the Brooklyn Nets. If so, you could look at Wednesday’s dominant performance as the start of the young Spurs’ playoff run in 2022.

For the Brooklyn fans’ perspective, visit Nets Daily.

PtR’s Gamethread 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.