After coming away with a gritty win in Tim Duncan’s head coaching debut the San Antonio Spurs look to carry some of that momentum into Brooklyn.
They trailed by 17 points but the San Antonio Spurs were able to pull off an impressive come from behind win over the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday. Dejounte Murray continues to show off his growing offensive game and the Spurs were able to buckle down towards the end and get Tim Duncan his first head coaching win.
It was a nice win for a team that needs every victory it can come by but there’s no time to rest. The Spurs are back in action tonight against a Brooklyn Nets team that is similarly fighting for playoff position. While San Antonio seeks to get back into the post-season, the Nets are desperately trying to avoid the eighth seed and a near-certain sweep at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Even without Kyrie Irving, this Nets team is still dangerous. Spencer Dinwiddie is an up and coming star, if he ever gets to lead his own team he will really take off. Caris LeVert is another name to watch. He just dropped 51 points on the Celtics on their home court, outscoring the whole Celtics team 37-36 over the fourth quarter and overtime, to give the Nets the victory.
Slowing down those two will be important but those adjustments won’t be all that San Antonio needs to pull out a win tonight. Here are our three keys to victory in tonight’s game against the Nets.
Next: Play hard and fast
Give Keldon Johnson some more playing time
One of the first things that jumped out at us from Tim Duncan‘s coaching debut was how much run he allowed Keldon Johnson to have. Injuries to several Spurs players certainly played a part in that but it was the most we have seen KJ play all season.
All the things that Spurs fans have come to love about Keldon’s game in the G-League carried over on Tuesday night. He plays every single play like his next meal depends on it, bringing a sense of urgency and tenacity that is refreshing and helpful. This is the guy who was diving all over the floor for the ball in G-Leauge games, you know he’s giving every single play his all when he gets NBA minutes.
While his offensive game is growing, Johnson is far from being ready to be called on as a main scoring option. He will get the majority his points off of fast breaks, put backs, or cutting to the hoop at the right time. He’s been working on his outside shot and it’s starting to show. He knocked down one of his two attempts from deep on Tuesday and his shot looked smooth.
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) March 4, 2020
He’s an aggressive and feisty defender, matching him up with one of the Nets’ primary scoring options would test him and could help the Spurs lock up a W.
Next: Keep Caris LeVert under control
Control Caris LeVert
LeVert might not be the best player on the Nets right now, that title can go to Dinwiddie, but he is their most dangerous scoring option. He’s a crafty 6’6 guard in a small forwards body, with an offensive game that can give you buckets from anywhere on the court.
He was deep in his bag against the Celtics. He was leading the break, pulling up from deep, nailing spot-up shots, and working nice two-man sets with his teammates. But he’s at his most dangerous when he’s attacking the rim. His combination of size, quickness, and deft finishing ability make him a real threat when he’s coming at you.
Perimeter defense has been an issue for the Spurs all season. Consider that the Spurs two best rim protectors will sit out tonight’s game and you have a recipe for disaster. Drew Eubanks is undersized for a center and doesn’t offer much in terms of rim protection. It’ll be up to the Spurs perimeter defenders to slow LeVert down before he can get a full head of steam.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before but maybe San Antonio should play Dejounte Murray and Derrick White at the same time? We’ve been pounding that drum since the season started and we’re not alone. Deploying them together to slow down LeVert and Dinwiddie would be a potential path to success tonight.
Next: Don't get destroyed on the glass
Hold down the paint
With several of their most important big men out tonight, the Spurs are going to be vastly outsized down low. San Antonio will be missing both of their primary bigs and the Nets can afford to stagger Jarrett Allen and DeAndre Jordan and constantly have a 7-footer out on the court.
Brooklyn is one of the league’s best rebounding teams. They’re second in total rebounds per game and fifth in offensive rebounds. San Antonio does have a few scrappy guards who aren’t afraid to throw themselves into the thick of the defense to grab boards but a concentrated effort on rebounding will be key.
As San Antonio is 26th in offensive rebounding they might be better off shying away from crashing the glass after the shot goes up. Murray is excellent at this and Johnson is an aggressive rebounder as well but they would be better off getting a step back on defense to slow down the Nets attack.
The Spurs will have to get creative with how they handle the paint. Unconventional rotations emphasizing small ball could be used to play Allen and Jordan off the court at times. Nothing should be off the table. San Antonio needs to get creative in order to get a win and keep their playoff hopes alive.
San Antonio had an impressive win earlier this week but they need to bring that same energy tonight. Every game from here on out is a must-win for a Spurs team that is teetering on the edge of being eliminated from playoff contention.