SAN ANTONIO -- The Nets didn’t suffer their usual loss to the Spurs on Sunday night, but it was another defeat nonetheless -– their 14th straight to San Antonio.
But it was different because it wasn’t that Tim Duncan dominated or the Nets couldn’t contain Tony Parker. They had pretty good (Duncan) to below-average (Parker) games, yet it was a relatively easy win for the Spurs, 97-85.
This says more about the Nets than anything. Brook Lopez was dominant, scoring 28 points and pulling down 11 rebounds. But the Nets’ offense disappeared in the second half and their defense let up.
The Spurs, who are a tough defense to score against, deserves some of the credit. After the Nets went ahead 52-49 early in the third, it seemed the Spurs buckled down and forced New Jersey to miss.
But most of the players in the locker room talked about what the Nets went away from doing on the offensive end. If you’re not stopping the other team, though, it doesn’t matter what happens on offense.
“They have shooters and know how to move the ball and they know what they’re looking for and they’re in their right spots,” Courtney Lee said. “Basically they have good chemistry. That’s a big dagger for us. We can’t let them get to where they want to get especially on the offensive end when we’re not executing and we’re not scoring.”
That really is the game-in-a-nutshell-quote, although the Nets were more concerned with what they did and didn't do on offense.
The Nets were without Devin Harris so they were going to need a great performance to beat the Spurs. They played hard, but they didn’t play smart. They let their offensive struggles carry over to their defense.
And it wasn’t Duncan -- 14 and 17 rebounds -- or Parker -- 3-for-12, eight points, five assists -- that beat the Nets. It was Manu Ginobili, which you expect.
But it was also George Hill, Roger Mason, Jr. and Ian Mahinmi. They combined for 32 points on 12-for-19 shooting. Mahinmi had 15, on 6-of-6 shooting, in his first game since the 2007-08 season.
"In the third quarter we had a stretch of five or six minutes where we were a little stagnant on offense," coach Kiki Vandeweghe said. “We didn't do the same things we were doing which is pushing the ball and swinging it to the opposite side. At that same time, we didn’t play as good a defense as we’ve been playing.”
The Nets haven’t been playing much defense lately and this was another example of it.
But they also need to work on their offense, figuring out how everyone can co-exist because the giant elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about continues to be how much Yi Jianlian is getting the ball and how many shots he’s taking.
Yi struggled, hitting just 4-of-17 from the field. But he’s not the reason the Nets lost. It was their defense again.
It was them letting their offensive struggles -- or disagreeing with some of the plays that were called -- frustrate them leading to poor execution on the other end.
The way the Nets lost to the Spurs was a little different for when these two teams play each other. But how the Nets lost followed a similar script for this season.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.).