It was a night that started with swarming bats and ended in swarming defense by the Spurs in the final possession for Brooklyn.
The Nets had a chance to pick up their first regular-season victory in San Antonio in 17 years. After two three-pointers from Joe Harris to put the Nets up three with over two minutes to go, it was there for the taking.
But a team that had won six straight games decided by three points or fewer could not rise to the occasion in San Antonio on Thursday, as free throws quickly became the Nets’ demise in a game of lead changes and ties.
From the start, it was clear the Nets were spooked out by the bats a bit (yes, there was a bat delay) — Brooklyn turned the ball over five times and went down by as many as 12 after that moment.
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) February 1, 2019
Threes were not falling as easily for Brooklyn throughout the night, but the team made it up with a 54-38 advantage in the paint.
Brooklyn had a strong night sharing the ball, and many of the team’s 30 assists on 42 field goals came on dishes in the paint. Jarrett Allen, Rodions Kurucs and Shabazz Napier were just a few who made the Nets’ presence in the paint known.
With just a one-point deficit at the half, the Nets again made their move in the third quarter with a 38-33 advantage in the frame. It was the setup for a down-to-the-wire fouth quarter that Brooklyn has often found themselves in.
As the Spurs got some more threes to go down, the Nets battled with their strength — fast break points. Brooklyn outscored San Antonio 26-4 on the fast break, but a 13-5 advantage for the Spurs in offensive boards proved to be a stronger deciding factor.
The Nets were looking for a big shot down the stretch, but only came up with handing free throws to the Spurs, a team that went 25-29 from the line compared to Brooklyn’s 19-29 performance.
San Antonio continued to go on a 9-2 run at the end of the fourth quarter that held off the Nets just enough.
Brooklyn attempted a rally with effort. D’Angelo Russell followed up a missed three-pointer with a rebound off his miss, and a dish to Napier who drained a wide-open three. After the Spurs went up by three with less than four seconds left, Napier fell on a three-point attempt, no foul was called and the game ended with no further bat interruptions.
As Kenny Atkinson said to the media after the game, you have to make your free throws on the road. The Nets had other opportunities to snag the win, but it came down to the details — and the Nets made too many mistakes.
The effort was there, but the Nets need a higher efficiency than 11-34 from three and 11-29 from the free throw line. The Spurs also had six players in double-digits and two players with 20+ points, while the Nets had five players in double-digits and one player with 20+ points.
If it makes Nets fans feel better, Gregg Popovich did tell Atkinson after the game that it was a bad non-call on Napier in the closing minutes. You can always count on Pop to keep it real.
Now onto other important business: When is D’Angelo Russell being named Victor Oladipo’s replacement for the All-Star game? Nets fans need to know, Adam Silver!
Shabazz Napier Point Guard
15 PTS, 4-13 FG, 2-9 3PT, 5-6 FT, 1 REB, 7 AST, 2 BLK, 1 TO, 29 MIN
Shabazz has been great filling in for Spencer Dinwiddie, and Thursday was no different. He may not have been hitting his threes, but he did make the one to make things interesting at the end.
Along with his seven assists off the bench, Shabazz was aggressive in getting to the paint and setting up his teammates. Add his two blocks to that, and Napier is bringing a lot to the table for Brooklyn.
Ed Davis Center
6 PTS, 11 REB, 1 BLK, 20 MIN
Ed Davis, rebound machine. That is all.
Rodions Kurucs Power Forward
9 PTS, 4-8 FG, 0-3 3PT, 1-2 FT, 10 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 3 TO, 27 MIN
Rodi is not always perfect, shown by his turnovers and offensive goaltending call tonight, but he is such a weapon for the Nets. His three offensive rebounds and near-double-double shows how active he is on both ends of the floor.
Of course, Rodi and DLo had their signature pass=and-cut moments. It’s always a pretty sight.
D’Angelo Russell Point Guard
25 PTS, 10-26 FG, 2-7 3PT, 3-4 FT, 5 REB, 9 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 4 TO, 33 MIN
DLo couldn’t drain the big shot on Thursday and cooled off as the game went on, but continued to contribute with his assists and defensive play. At one point in the first half, DLo scored eight points of a 12-0 Brooklyn run.
Nets fans hope it was enough to convince Adam Silver of giving Russell an All-Star bid in Oladipo’s stead. It’s his time.
Jarrett Allen Center
14 PTS, 6-7 FG, 1-1 3PT, 1-3 FT, 3 REB, 4 AST, 2 STL, 2 BLK, 1 TO, 28 MIN
Jarrett said he had “half of Austin” in the crowd tonight in between his family and friends, and he gave them a little bit of everything to cheer for. He wasn’t as dominant on the boards, but Jarrett had a strong night distributing and on defense.
He always gives a show when he heads home.