Pregame Open Thread: San Antonio Spurs @ New Jersey Nets

The Nets play the San Antonio Spurs tonight, who I hear are a pretty good basketball team. They have a 45-9 record, which seems pretty decent. The Spurs are also 20-7 on the road, while the Nets only have 17 wins on the entire season. Needless to say, tonight’s going to be a pretty tough matchup.

Forget what you thought about your older sibling’s Spurs. This team is a lot different than the defensive, grind-it-out championship teams of the early 2000s. Sure, they employ a lot of the same players, but their offense has undergone a transformation – the team is actually above the league average in pace, and they have the 3rd most efficient offense in the NBA. While Tim Duncan is still their best player and defensive anchor, the entire team is running on all cylinders around him – the Spurs have ten rotation players who would be solid contributors anywhere. The Nets can’t really say the same.

Here are some keys to tonight’s game:

Do more than just watch spot-up shooters…Put a hand up! The Nets were absolutely dismantled by the New York Knicks from outside, letting the Knicks shoot 34 three-pointers (making sixteen), and most of them were just wide open looks after the Nets either collapsed on the inside or just forgot they were playing basketball. The Spurs are no easier – between Ginobili, Parker, Matt Bonner, Richard Jefferson, George Hill, and rookie Gary Neal, the Spurs are the third-best team in the NBA spotting up. The Nets are normally a decent team at defending the spot-up – they’re 11th in the NBA – so let’s hope Saturday was just an aberration.

Go inside. Despite having Tim Duncan anchoring the inside, the Spurs are actually one of the worse teams in the NBA defending the post – just 24th in post defense. While Duncan is still great, he’s a little slower then he used to be and the rest of the bigs on San Antonio (Bonner, McDyess, Blair) are far from top-level post defenders. If the Nets can set up Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries inside, they should be able to work inside out and get some offense going.

Hey, anything is possible. For those of you who believe a victory against San Antonio would be impossible, I refer you to March 29, 2010. (For those of you who will point out that San Antonio was missing both Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker that game, allow me to just say… shhh.)

For more news & analysis on the San Antonio Spurs, check out TrueHoop affiliate 48 Minutes of Hell.