SAN ANTONIO — Taking a page from the Spurs’ Way, first-year general manager Sean Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson have worked hard to make the three-pointer a staple of the Nets’ offense this season. Marks, who returned to San Antonio Saturday night for the first time since being hired away from the Spurs, admits his template is borrowed from his former franchise.
The Nets got a first-hand look at what happens when that approach is executed to perfection. Consistently making the extra pass, the Spurs repeatedly found three-point shooters wide-open, and they knocked down 14 of 26 treys on their way to a humiliating 130-101 blowout of the Nets at AT&T Center. The Spurs had a season-high 38 assists on 50 made baskets, and in the final quarter, their lead reached 38 points.
Striving to put the blowout in perspective, Atkinson faulted his team’s poor shot selection for allowing the Spurs to get out in transition. “They were running it down our throats,” Atkinson said. “But one thing that’s great is seeing a team like that and watching how they move the ball and how they share the ball, how quick their decisions are.
“It was good for us as a coaching staff and good for our players to kind of feel what it’s like. We hope one day we will try to imitate them.”
The Nets learned how far away they really are Saturday night. Kawhi Leonard (30 points) and Patty Mills (16 points) each made 4 of 7 three-point attempts to lead six Spurs (19-5) in double figures scoring. Bojan Bogdanovic topped the Nets (6-16) with 20 points, Luis Scola had 15, and Brook Lopez added 14. The Nets only connected on 7 of 27 threes.
For the first time in his NBA career, center Lopez arrived in San Antonio without having to worry about facing Tim Duncan, who retired after last season. Lopez called it “a weird experience,” and promised to use his bank shot for the first time this season as a tribute to Duncan’s patented move, which the Nets’ center did in the second period.
But that was the highlight as far as the Nets’ execution. Trailing by three late in the first period, the Nets allowed the Spurs to take a 41-26 lead with a 12-0 run in the final 1:46 on just four possessions. Mills, Manu Ginobili and Leonard each hit three-pointers before Dewayne Dedmon converted a three-point play.
Nets guard Sean Kilpatrick said there’s more to the Spurs’ three-point efficiency than meets the referees’ eyes. “They do a great job of screening,” Kilpatrick said. “I don’t know if they’re legal or illegal, but they make sure shooters get open.”
The Spurs had a season-high 67 points in the first half, and they ended the third quarter with a 27-9 run that included 11 straight points by Mills for a 103-70 lead entering the final period.
Asked about the Spurs’ open threes, Lopez said, “That’s what they’re known for. It’s a good look for our guys to see. It’s the way we could be and should be playing. Their strengths and what they do in their system definitely mirror ours.”