...And the Nets just got out to Landry Fields.
It could have been Sally Field, the Nets probably still would have been late on their rotations and contesting shots. That’s how far away the Nets were from the shooters in their 10-point loss to the Amar’e Stoudemire-less Knicks.
The Nets won’t be as lucky tomorrow night when the Spurs come in healthy and well rested, sporting an NBA-best 45-9 mark.
The Spurs enjoyed such a laugher in Washington that Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker played 39:16 – combined. But these are the games you have seen the Nets get up to play.
I’m not saying the Nets are going to win, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it’s competitive based on some of their performances against the Lakers, Celtics, Magic and Mavs. The Nets either play up to their level of competition or those good teams coast against New Jersey and wait until the fourth quarter to turn it on and pull out the victory.
“With a team like that you’ve got to push the pace,” Devin Harris said of the Spurs. “You don’t want to go against their halfcourt defense. It’s solid. We have similarities in what we do as far as where they like to go so we should know how to attack it. But with a team like that we have to push the ball and try to score in the first six, seven seconds. We don’t want to spend a lot of time in the halfcourt.”
The Nets may have similarities because Avery Johnson is a Gregg Popovich disciple, but they don’t have the players the Spurs have. It’s always going to be more effective if you have one of the best interior and low post defenders in NBA history in Duncan.
If the Nets had someone like Duncan, they could have guarded the perimeter more closely against the Knicks and not worried about anyone getting inside. Then again, if the Nets had a player like Duncan they wouldn’t be 17-38 and have all the troubles they do.
There are only so many Duncans. Johnson was fortunate enough to play with him and win the 1999 NBA title with Duncan as the focal point offensively.
It’s a tribute to him and Popovich that 12 years later, the Spurs have the NBA’s best record and a chance at winning another NBA championship.
The only two people who come to mind who have enjoyed that type of long-standing success are Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson. They won their first title together in 2000 and 11 years later are going for their second three-peat.
With both teams, the faces have changed over the years and to a certain extent the styles are different, especially the Spurs. They’re more of an offensive team this season, and for the first time in Duncan’s career he’s not averaging a double-double.
But in the playoffs, when things slow down they still have the players and system to win close, hard-fought, halfcourt games.
There is something to be said for longevity, too. Popovich, Duncan, Ginobili and Parker were part of the team that beat the Nets in the 2003 NBA Finals. No one remains on the Nets, except for assistant coach Tom Barrise.
One other familiar face will be there – Richard Jefferson. But he’s with the Spurs now, enjoying his best chance at winning an NBA title, eight years after the Nets lost to San Antonio in six games.
In that sixth game, it was Speedy Claxton, Steve Kerr and Stephen Jackson that killed the Nets from the outside. The Nets were much better defensively, then. But the Nets had to pay more attention to Duncan and David Robinson inside.
The Knicks had no inside presence and the Nets still gave them look after look after look.
...And they just got out to Wilson Chandler.
Follow me on Twitter: @Al_Iannazzone
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)