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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Brooklyn Nets

The Spurs will be hoping to end their five-game losing streak against a Nets squad that blew them out last time.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Brooklyn Nets Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off five straight losses that have featured some disastrous defense, the Spurs are looking to get back on track. They might be hard pressed to do that tonight against a Nets squad that has risen to second in the East after a slow start to the season that featured plenty of off-court turmoil, but if there’s one reason for the Spurs to have some hope, it’s because the Brooklyn’s leading scorer is out for at least another week after suffering an MCL sprain and have lost two straight themselves. Can the Spurs take advantage, or are they destined to extend their losing streak to six against another superior squad?

San Antonio Spurs (13-31) vs. Brooklyn Nets (27-15)

January 17, 2023 | 7:00 PM CT

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

Spurs: Doug McDermott (Questionable — Back), Devin Vassell (Out — Knee), Blake Wesley (Out — G-League), Dominick Barlow (Out — Two-Way), Charles Bassey (Out — Two-Way)

Nets: Kevin Durant (Out — Knee)

What to watch for

  • Just because Durant is out doesn’t mean the Spurs are in for a more equal match-up. Kyrie Irving has been a thorn in their sides for years and has a serious knack for having some of his best games against Gregg Popovich’s squad. In a 139-103 victory in Brooklyn to open 2023, the Nets destroyed the Spurs in all faucets of the game in a wire-to-wire blowout. They had a double-digit lead by the end of the first quarter and never looked back, as Durant and Irving combined for 52 easy points in under 30 minutes apiece. But it wasn’t just the Nets stars that outplayed the Spurs. Seth Curry had a shooting slump-breaking 16 points on 4-7 shooting from three, Nic Claxton had his way inside, and T.J. Warren torched the Spurs for 18 points off the bench. Even with Durant sitting this one out, the Spurs will need more of a team effort to get back in the winning column tonight.
  • Defense is obviously the Spurs’ biggest weakness, but if it’s not going to improve any time soon, they need to start trying to make up for it more on offense. Keldon Johnson is the leading scorer, but he continues to struggle in that role as his efficiency numbers dip. Missing Vassell certainly isn’t helping him or the team as a whole, but a better team effort with fewer scoring droughts and lapses in judgement would certainly help. The Spurs are tied for third in the league in assists per game at 27.1, so when they do keep the ball moving and don’t turn it over, good things happen. Will it ever be enough to overcome this historically bad defense? Not on most nights, but good offensive games give this particular squad their best chances for wins.
  • This probably isn’t something many saw coming, but Tre Jones has been the Spurs most consistent offensive threat lately, averaging 19.1 points on 49% shooting and 5.7 assists over the last six games. It’s great to see him thriving so much and proving himself as a starting point guard with his speed and knack for hitting tough shots near the rim. About the only thing to nitpick about his current streak is he’s still shooting just 30% from three, just a trace above his season average. If he can just add a consistent three-point shot to his arsenal, there will be little doubt about his future in the NBA, be it as a starter or sixth man.

For the Nets fans’ perspective, visit Nets Daily.

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