No Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili. Not much of a chance as well for the San Antonio Spurs, but they managed to make a game of it against the Brooklyn Nets, who came away with the 103-89 win.
While the Brooklyn Nets continue their impressive turnaround in 2014, with Alan Anderson scoring 22 points off the bench (Deron Williams is a certified lineup player again), making it their 12th win out of 16 games since the turn of the new year, the story was probably the team the Spurs put on the court, without their big three and arguably their third best player on the team.
The missing players didn’t make Gregg Popovich’s desire to win any less strong than before; it only changed his expectations.
I’m disappointed we didn’t win. I’m thinking we make a couple of 3s in the second half and we hang right in there, and that’s the way you’ve got to look at it. I know we didn’t look pretty. I’m more interested in results than how we look. So I thought they performed well.
And it’s not enough that the Spurs were missing four key players. Matt Bonner is playing with a mask on his face, and now so is Nando de Colo, who started and did pretty well in his 27 minutes on the floor, but had to leave in the first half after getting hit hard in the nose by Andrei Kirilenko (nothing intentional, we think). He returned with a face mask as well, making the Spurs look even more ridiculous than before.
The lineup the Spurs used was actually working early on, going ultra-small ball, with four guards and Tiago Splitter at center. Cory Joseph and De Colo in the backcourt, Danny Green and Marco Belinelli as the taller wing players. It was mostly when the bench unit got involved, or when de Colo had to leave, did the Nets finally put a stamp on the game following only 17 points in the first quarter.
I thought he was taking wide-open shots. He was also being aggressive, driving the ball knowing that they didn’t have any shot blocking. We’ve got the pieces. We’re finally starting to turn the corner a lot more lately. I just want to win no matter how much I’m playing.
Hitting the bench again doesn’t seem to worry Anderson, who led the Nets with 22 points, while Deron Williams had 16 with 8 assists, playing alongside Shaun Livingston and Joe Johnson in the small-ball the Nets have going on as well. The Nets had no problem finding their way into the paint, scoring 56 points, which is quite a huge contrast for a team that’s ranked only 27th in the league in points from the paint.
They were at their best when Mirza Teletovic and Andrei Kirilenko were in the game, while Paul Pierce with 12 points and 7 rebounds also deserves a mention. The Nets move on, confident in the newly found chemistry and system, while the Spurs can’t wait to get their best players back, knowing they can’t afford to slip too far behind in the race for the top spot in the West.