The Brooklyn Nets were looking forward to taking the litmus test known as the San Antonio Spurs.
Under coach Gregg Popovich, with stars such as Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, San Antonio has been one of the benchmarks of success in the NBA. But that’s not the team the Nets faced Thursday night in Barclays Center.
The Nets got the CYO Spurs – a ragtag team missing Duncan, Parker, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard and Boris Diaw, all of who were dealing with illness, injury and/or exhaustion.
The Nets know this position.
Back on Nov. 16 the Nets took the Staples Center court against the Clippers without Kevin Garnett, Brook Lopez, Paul Pierce and Deron Williams. They almost pulled off one of the stunning upsets of the season.
So the Nets should not have taken the Spurs lightly, but they did, and it almost cost them big time.
They trailed by seven after the first quarter, led by a single point at the half, and didn’t pull away from San Antonio until midway in the fourth. The 103-89 win lifts the Nets to 22-25, putting them in position to get to next week’s All-Star break at .500, not bad for a team that went into 2014 with a 10-21 mark.
The win moved the Nets to within three games of the idle Toronto Raptors. They play at Detroit Friday night and then get New Orleans and Charlotte at home.
Unlike the battered Spurs (36-14), who were coming off a 125-118 double OT win over the Wizards in Washington, the Nets were healthy and rested. Andray Blatche (hip), Andrei Kirilenko (calf) and Joe Johnson (knee) all played.
Alan Anderson led the Nets with 22 on 9-of-15 shooting. Williams had 16 points and eight assists. San Antonio got 18 from Cory Joseph and 17 from Long Island’s Danny Green.
NOTES: Brook Lopez, who was lost for the season with a broken bone in his right foot suffered on Dec. 20, returned to Barclays Center on crutches, saying it was good to be back.