Coming off of a close win at home on Monday night, the Brooklyn Nets (21-25) return to Brooklyn Thursday night for a matchup with the first place San Antonio Spurs (36-13). The Spurs, who have the best record in the Southwest division and the best road record in the entire league, are coming off a thrilling double overtime win over Washington last night, and therefore could be pretty tired. Expect coach Poppovich to give multiple players the night off.
San Antonio has won 3 straight games despite multiple injuries to key players. No matter who goes down, they have found other players to fill the holes in their roster. The Nets have also lost 6 straight games to the Spurs and haven’t beaten them since 2010.
That losing streak includes a loss earlier this season on New Year’s Eve, where the Nets lost by nearly 30 points in San Antonio. However, that loss turned Brooklyn’s season completely around. The Nets went on to go 10-3 in January, including a buzzer beater win in their next game in Oklahoma City. Hopefully, they can get on another similar roll after this game.
Injuries: The Nets should to be healthy tonight with Andrei Kirilenko, Joe Johnson, and Andray Blatche all expected to be back in the lineup. This should really improve their bench, which was awful on Monday. The Spurs are heading in the opposite direction. Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard were already out. Then, Tony Parker got hurt last night in Washington and will not play. Tim Duncan is also expected to be given the night off after the double overtime win. And who knows if Pop will rest anyone else.
Deron Williams vs. Patty Mills. Advantage: Williams
Mills will probably replace Tony Parker in the starting lineup. This has been the best season of Mills’s young career and he has finally cracked San Antonio’s rotation. He is a very good 3-point shooter, so the Nets will have to be careful of that. Deron Williams played pretty well on Monday and has had a couple of off days. He is also going up against an inexperienced backcourt, so he should play well tonight.
Shaun Livingston vs. Cory Joesph. Advantage: Livingston
Joseph has been starting recently with all of the Spurs’ injuries. He has been shuttled back and forth from the D-League in recent years and is only averaging 4 ppg in 12 minutes this season. However, Marco Belinelli, the famed Nets-killer, is coming off the bench for the Spurs, and we all know he can cause problems. He is leading the NBA in 3-point % this year at 45%. Livingston is coming off a game where he had a career high 7 steals on Monday. However, don’t expect the Spurs to be that careless with the basketball.
Joe Johnson vs. Danny Green. Advantage: Green
After nearly a month away injured, Danny Green is back and coming off one of his best games of the year last night against the Wizards. He is also from Long Island, so he is coming to play his hometown team. However, he also played a season high 46 minutes last night, so he could be tired and may even be given the night off. Joe Johnson has had almost a week off to deal with the tendinitis in his foot and will hopefully look close to 100% tonight.
Paul Pierce vs. Boris Diaw. Advantage: Pierce
If Duncan is given the night off, Diaw likely gets the start. Like Paul Pierce, he is slow and unathletic, but can still shoot and make plays. However, his defense is not very good and Pierce should love this matchup. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Paul score 20 again.
Kevin Garnett vs. Tiago Splitter. Advantage: Garnett
Splitter also missed almost a month recently but is back starting now. Like most of this team, he played too many minutes last night and could look a little tired. Garnett is coming off a really good defense showing on Monday and hopes to keep that up tonight.
Bold prediction: With all of San Antonio’s injuries and nights off given by Pop, someone is going to have to step up because this game will be close. I’m going with Marco Belinelli, who Nets fans know can beat this team. I think he scores 20 off the bench.
Score prediction: Nets 102, Spurs 97. It’s going to be closer than it should be, but the Spurs will just run out of gas at the end. The Nets will avenge their New Year’s Eve loss.