For those of you late to the party, it should be obvious by now that it is a difficult year for the San Antonio Spurs (44-29). The same team that beat the Boston Celtics (47-26) on Sunday evening couldn’t beat the struggling New Jersey Nets (10-64) a mere 24-hours later.
While back spasms forced Manu took a seat courtside next to injured teammate Tony Parker, the Spurs’ starting lineup of Keith Bogans, Antonio McDyess, Tim Duncan, George Hill and Richard Jefferson took to the hardwood.
The first minute of the game was just foreshadowing for what was to come as the Nets gained first possession of the ball. After a Spurs rebound, Hill went for a failed layup and put the ball back in the Nets’ hands. Almost immediately, former Dallas Maverick Devin Harris shot a three-pointer for the first points of the game… not exactly a good sign.
After Devin Harris’ free throw to tie the score at 14-14, Duncan missed what could’ve been a nice floater. With four minutes left in the quarter, San Antonio was barely trailing New Jersey with less than stellar shooting, making seven of sixteen shots. Garrett Temple, one of the newest members of the team, made his own mark with a huge three from the corner with a minute to go. Coming off a double-double on Sunday night against Boston, former Net Jefferson was actually a significant contributing factor to the Spurs’ offense with 10 points in the first, in which San Antonio finished with a six-point lead over New Jersey, 33-27.
Nearly a minute into the second quarter, Roger Mason Jr.’s basket put the Spurs on a seven-point run as well as an eight-point lead, their largest of the game so far. It wasn’t long before New Jersey returned to narrow the lead to four. San Antonio’s shooting began to suffer further, missing five consecutive shots; Duncan stepped up to the free throw line only to miss both shots. Jefferson brought the ball back in and got the ball to Hill, who shot an impressive three-pointer right when they needed it most with nearly six minutes left in the half.
A three-point play from Jefferson gave the Spurs an eleven-point lead, taking advantage of the Nets’ own shooting woes before Harris came back with a layup. In addition to seven turnovers in the second quarter alone, missed free throws from San Antonio continued to hurt the team as Bogans missed both shots with less than two minutes left. Harris’ three-point play brought the Nets back within three of the Spurs; Bonner’s three-point attempt and Blair’s offensive rebound-for-layup both failed at the end of the half – San Antonio 46, New Jersey 43.
We all know the third quarter is unusually rough for San Antonio and Monday night was no exception, which wasn’t helped by Mason’s sprained right knuckle – he did not return to the game. Picking up the slack, Duncan and Jefferson came back to help early on by adding three-of-four free throws to bring the Spurs a little room to breathe over the Nets, who were fighting to avoid the worst record in NBA history.
San Antonio fought to stay alive over New Jersey towards the end of the third, but Harris continued to lead the Nets in a charge to catch up. With just under three minutes left in the quarter, Hill made two nothing-but-net free throws before a big offensive play ending in a basket. Blair recovered a missed New Jersey shot and found Hill, who moved the ball down the court before passing to McDyess. He got the ball back to Blair, who passed back to Hill – a big jump gave the Spurs a six-point lead yet again.
Hill’s missed jumper was recovered by Blair, who went in for the basket to bring the Spurs back within six over New Jersey, but a Nets basket cut the San Antonio lead right at the buzzer to end the third quarter, San Antonio 66, New Jersey 62.
It was hard enough to watch live, so for those who missed out, here’s a two-word synopsis of the fourth quarter in general:
I won’t ask what words began flowing from the mouths of every Spurs fan in the Izod Center, but I can assure you they weren’t pretty, considering the final score of San Antonio 84, New Jersey 90. The San Antonio defeat ended New Jersey’s 14-game losing streak to the Spurs, their first win over the team since 2002.
The upside to the dismal duel in the Meadowlands was the nice turnout of fans donning the silver and black, including Project Spurs’ own head honchos, Jeff Garcia and Mike DeLeon. With so many fans in the seats to cheer the team on far from the 210 area code, it’s sad that the team didn’t quite show up to play for them.