Nets aim to stay afloat against the fluid Spurs

(AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

(AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Opponent: San Antonio Spurs
Time: 7:30
Location: Barclays Center
TV: YES Network
Radio: WFAN

In the famous words of Admiral Ackbar, “It’s a Trap!”

Coming off an overtime thriller against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night, and facing the Raptors tomorrow evening on the second-half of a back-to-back, tonight’s game against the Nets could be the quintessential trap game for the San Antonio Spurs. However, while the scheduling gods may have granted the Nets a slight chance at victory, it is decidedly more of the one-in-a-million variety.

The Spurs sit behind only the mighty Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference. On the other hand, regardless of conference, the Nets would be in last place by a sizable margin — trailing the Miami Heat by 5 wins in the East, and the Los Angeles Lakers by 7 wins in the West. On paper, it’s hard to have a starker contrast in talent level. Thankfully for the Nets, they don’t play games on paper and, in real life, there is a razor-thin possibility in which they can catch the Spurs with their eyes already on tomorrow’s game with the Raptors.

Despite having lost twelve of their last thirteen games since a win against the Charlotte Hornets back on December 26th, the Nets proved they aren’t entirely moribund by absolutely burning the New Orleans Pelicans to the ground in a 143 point scoring outburst two games previously. While that game was clearly the exception and not the rule, it showed that when everything clicks for this team, they are genuinely capable of great basketball. However, with only nine wins to their name here in late January, it is an inescapable fact that things rarely, if ever, go right for the Nets.

Even without Jeremy Lin, who was ruled out today for another 3-5 weeks, the Nets could do well by channeling a can-do effort as many of them can use games like tonight to prove that they belong in the NBA. Playing neither for ping-pong balls nor playoff position, one-off games like tonight’s tilt against the Spurs give Net fans the chance to sit back, put their feet up, and watch a decided underdog play with nothing to lose. Will they beat the Spurs tonight? Probably not. But there’s always a chance, even if it’s simply a matter of a gift from the scheduling gods.

3 Things to Watch for in Nets-Spurs:

1. Will the absences ever catch up with the Spurs?

Tonight, San Antonio will be without at least Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Pau Gasol, and late-scratch Kawhi Leonard. A lesser team would be bereft with all that talent stuck on the bench, but the Spurs have an odd way of not noticing such looming absences. At some point, they have to start losing games when they sit all their best players, but it is still an unlikely chance that tonight will be that night.

2, Can Caris LeVert and Quincy Acy keep it up?

Deep reserve Quincy Acy has put up lines 14 + 4 and 12 + 8 in his last two games while playing for a more permanent spot on the Nets’ roster during his second 10-day contract, while rookie Caris LeVert has put up tallies of 9/4/1, 17/6/5, and 14/4/3 in his last three. These two have lately proven to be bright spots on a rather dark horizon.

3. Does Popovich make any more political pronouncements?

While it is questionable whether or not tonight’s game will produce any fireworks on the court, head coach Gregg Popovich has lately taken to setting them off with his post-game comments. With the nation’s attention collectively focused on Washington D.C. regardless of party affiliation (and I’m not talking about the Wizards’ excellent home record), Pop has the potential to be the biggest headline coming out of tonight’s strange game.