Nets pull away from undermanned Spurs in fourth quarter
Joe Johnson was chatting it up, stuck in a tightly confined space with a throng of people peppering him with queries, when the guy whose locker is directly to his right tried to make an exit stage left.
Alan Anderson was scurrying out, doing his best to keep his usual low profile, when Johnson let him have it.
"Man, you kill me!" Johnson bellowed after the Nets' 103-89 win over the Spurs at Barclays Center Thursday night.
Fitting, given that Anderson had just slayed the makeshift Spurs, a team that coach Gregg Popovich joked was starting "two Americans, a Frenchman, an Italian and a Brazilian. You've got to figure it out."
With Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard sitting this one out, San Antonio was ripe for the picking. Still, the Nets needed an offensive jolt from Anderson just to slide past what essentially was a bunch of no-names.
Anderson got hot in the second half, scoring 19 of his 22 points to fuel the Nets' second straight win on the heels of last week's three-game losing streak.
Anderson scored 16 of the Nets' 21 points during a stretch of seven-plus minutes spanning the third and fourth quarters, helping them gather some steam after San Antonio (36-14) drew within 66-62 with 2:48 left in the third quarter.
"I started attacking, stopped settling for the three so much," Anderson said. "I just started attacking, and once we started doing that, it started opening up the lane [for] kickouts, penetrating and dishing. Everything started opening up."
The Nets shot 60.9 percent from the floor in the second half, converting 17 of 28 opportunities in the paint for a 34-20 edge in that department after halftime.
They also did a good job on the boards, reversing a trend of getting outworked on the glass by snatching a season-high 53 rebounds, 15 more than San Antonio. They also appeared to clamp down in the second half as the Spurs shot 16-for-40.
"Defense. We emphasized defense more," Kevin Garnett said. "Getting stops, letting it fuel the offense. That's pretty much what it is, to talk more often. Nothing more, nothing less than that."
Deron Williams added 16 points and seven assists for the Nets (22-25), who got Johnson, Andray Blatche and Andrei Kirilenko back from injuries. Williams was much more assertive after halftime after getting past the frustrations of a so-so first two quarters.
"I just got in the lane, thought I got fouled a couple of times, turned it over," he said. "And when I turn it over early, I'm just conscious because I don't want to turn it over. So I stopped being aggressive for a little bit and I just said what the heck and tried to get it going."
No one, though, had it going like Anderson. He found his stroke just in the nick of time to hold off a depleted lineup.
"They are still NBA players, man, and they've been around each other a lot," Anderson said. "Of course, we wanted all their team there, but we are trying to win. So it'd be good to start off early and play the whole four quarters, but sometimes it's not like that. It's not how you start, it's how you finish. And we finished strong."
The Spurs were without the injured Parker, Ginobili and Leonard Thursday night, and Gregg Popovich rested Duncan after a double-overtime victory in Washington on Wednesday night.
The Spurs got fined $250,000 by the league last season for not informing the league office they were not bringing six of their top players with them for their only regular-season visit to Miami.
Popovich wasn't overly concerned about any negative perception about his decision.
"I care in the sense that you'd like everything to be copacetic, and you'd like everyone else to be happy and all that kind of thing," Popovich said.
"But it's not the way the world works. My perspective is different from the league's or the dad who brought his son or daughter to the game and they're disappointed because maybe their favorite player is Ginobili or something like that, and I feel that. But I still have to do what's right for my team."