After a first half that included spirited energetic play by the bench unit once again, Brook Lopez finding his teammates out of double teams, and holding the San Antonio Spurs to under 40% shooting in the first half, the Nets found themselves in the surprising position of being ahead 47-42 in the Spurs home opener at halftime.
That changed very quickly in the 3rd quarter where Tony Parker scored 8 straight points to open the half, the Spurs reverted to their familiar ball and player movement, and Parker and Kawhi Leonard combined for 18 points on 9-12 shooting from the field.
After watching the entire game (in which the Nets lose 102-75), it’s hard not to come away with the feeling that the Spurs used a first half against a team they didn’t respect (the Nets) to spend some time working through the transition to make LaMarcus Aldridge the focal point of the offense.
Granted, some of that could have been the game plan. Thaddeus Young was over-matched by the Aldridge-Tim Duncan front line and the Spurs attacked the Aldridge Young match-up often early on his signature spot on the left block. The results were mixed with the biggest impact being an unfamiliar lack of spacing and movement for the Spurs.
Even though the Spurs didn’t look right offensively, there were still concerns for the Nets even as they hung in the game in the first quarter. The Spurs murdered the Nets on the boards throughout the game 56-32, expected given the match-ups, and especially on the offensive end (the Spurs had 12 offensive rebounds to the Nets 2, 15-0 Spurs in second change points).
The bright spot for the Nets was the energy the bench unit of Shane Larkin, Bojan Bogdanovic, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Thomas Robinson, and Andrea Bargnani played with in the first half. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was a force defensively early in the game and he showed great cutting instincts and some flashes offensively when he was aggressive and going to the basket.
The Shane Larkin-Andrea Bargnani pick and pop found a nice little rhythm as well after Larkin established himself as a scoring threat with two mid-range shots and a nice finish on the right side of the basket.
But, the what might have come back to bite the Nets (among other things), was their reliance on the mid-range jumper. It was falling in the first half and it wasn’t in the second. The Nets didn’t do themselves any favors. Not only were they shut out in second chance points, they were silenced in fast break points as well (9-0), the Spurs outscored them 44-30 in the paint and the Spurs knocked down 9 three pointers to the Nets 5 (40%-31%).
In the third quarter, after being limited to 42 points at halftime on under 40% shooting from the field, the Spurs put the ball in Tony Parker’s and Kawhi Leonard’s hands and use Aldridge and Duncan as the pivots around which those two ball handlers raced. You know, the Spurs offense.
The Nets offense digressed, and the next thing you know Boris Diaw is dropping silly bounce passes out of the post to Patty Mills for wide open three’s and Manu Ginobili was slashing into the paint at will. The Spurs scored 60 points in the second half and shot 50% from the field.
The same bench unit that provided the best play for the Nets in the entire game went silent in the second half. After scoring 25 points off the bench in the first half, the Nets had only bench points with 5:50 left in the game; garbage time (otherwise known as when Ray McCallum checked into the game).
A few other notes:
- Joe Johnson was a ghost besides getting called for fouls for grabbing Kawhi Leonard as he ran by him. His first score was with 9 minutes left in the game. He finished with 2 points and 2 rebounds on 1-7 shooting.
- Brook Lopez had another fine performance in a tough match-up scoring 17 points on 6-11 shooting. The Spurs doubled him often and he was finding cutters early.
- Thaddeus Young was relegated to a spot up shooter for much of this game. Not ideal for him. The Nets will have to find a way to allow him to showcase his mobility against bigger front lines like the Spurs rather than trying to stretch them out.
- Jarrett Jack had a really nice first half in his return. He finished with 12 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists on 5-13 shooting from the field. But when the Spurs came out of halftime, Tony Parker attacked Jack, scoring 8 straight points.
- Kawhi Leonard is a monster. He has at least one spectacular defensive play per quarter including an insane chase down block against Ellington in the 2nd quarter and he stole Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s lunch in the back court in the 3rd quarter.