Double-A, AK-47 shoot down Spurs

By Jason Schott

The Nets got a big win on Thursday night over the San Antonio Spurs, 103-89, at Barclays Center. Even though the Spurs were without Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Boris Diaw, any win over them is big because you beat the Gregg Popovich system.

It also shows the progress the Nets have made since December 31st, when they were blown out in San Antonio. They improved their record to 22-25. The Nets have four games before the All-Star break: at Detroit tomorrow night, home for the Pelicans on Sunday and Bobcats on Wednesday, and at the Bulls next Thursday. If they can win three of four of these, they will enter the break at 25-26, remarkable progress for a team that began the season 10-21.

The Nets won this game because of the clutch play of their bench down the stretch, as Alan Anderson, Andrei Kirilenko, and Mirza Teletovic played the entire fourth quarter. The Nets led 75- 68 entering the fourth quarter, and Kidd played them alongside Kevin Garnett and Shaun Livingston for most of the fourth.

Kirilenko had a dunk at the 8:27 mark that gave the Nets a 10-point lead, at 84-74, and they maintained that lead the rest of the way. They sealed it when Deron Williams hit a three, followed by a Teletovic driving layup that electrified the crowd and made it 97-83 with 3:13 remaining.

This capped a big night for Williams, who left the game in the first quarter after injuring his lower right leg. He returned in the second quarter and had one of his best games of the season. D-Will had 16 points on 7-for-14 shooting, 8 assists, and 4 rebounds.

The way Jason Kidd managed the fourth showed how much he has matured as a head coach. For the first part of the season, Kidd had a set rotation for when guys would play, and the conditions of the game would not change that. Tonight, when he saw the bench doing the job, he stuck with them, and did not use Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson at all in the fourth. That, and the fact that KG played just four minutes of the fourth and 18 overall, will help greatly in the second part of their back-to-back on Friday night in Detroit.

Anderson led the Nets with 22 points on 9-for-15 shooting (2-3 on 3-pointers). Nets Head Coach Jason Kidd said of Anderson, "I thought he was taking wide open shots. He was also being aggressive, driving the ball. We understood that they didn't have any shot blocking in there, so our job was to, you know, Alan to drive it or whoever had it, drive it, make something happen. Alan got to the basket, but he also made some big jumpers.

Kirilenko had a great line: 4 points (1-3 FG), 8 rebounds, 6 assists, and 1 steal. His impact on the Nets is obvious, as they improved to 13-5 with him in the lineup. Kidd said of AK-47, "He's big, he does all the little things. If you look at the stat sheet, there's nothing that's really big. He rebounded the ball for us, but again, his playmaking on the offensive end is huge for us. He's so unselfish, and he understands how to find the open guy. That helps us offensively, and defensively, he knows how to get his hands on balls."

Teletovic had 8 points (4-10 FG, 0-1 on 3-pt), 7 rebounds, and 2 assists. Mason Plumlee also played a part tonight, with 7 points (3-4 FG), 3 rebounds, and an assist in 11 minutes. On Thursday night, Plumlee was chosen for Team Webber in the Rising Stars game next Friday night as part of All-Star Weekend.

Jason Schott