Nets shock Spurs for 10th win, avoiding NBA's worst record
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (NBA.com exclusive) -- Officially, the Nets will not be the worst team in NBA history.
Unofficially, they may no longer be the worst team in the NBA this season.
New Jersey's dramatic 90-84 win over the red-hot Spurs on Monday night marked the team's 10th win of the season -- surpassing the worst-ever 9-73 mark set by the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers.
And as public announcer Gary Sussman bellowed "We Got 10!" at game's end to a thrilled IZOD Center crowd of 13,053, the Nets could finally breathe easy. They won't be on the wrong side of history. And with three wins in their last four games, what's left of the season may not be so bad either.
"It's a big relief," Nets point guard Devin Harris said. "Guys really wanted to get this off our back. Nobody wants to be the worst team in history."
"Keep it going," added center Brook Lopez. "The way we're playing I think there's a chance we can catch Minnesota."
Lopez led the Nets (10-64) with 22 points and 12 rebounds, but the team got bonus contributions from Harris (17 points, nine assists), Courtney Lee (19 points) and rookie Terrence Williams (13 points, seven rebounds).
Bound to be overlooked given the circumstances, the Nets also snapped San Antonio's 14-game winning streak over New Jersey, dating back to 2002.
The Spurs had won 12 out of their last 16 -- with the losses coming against quality opponents like the Lakers, Magic, Cavs and Hawks. And there was no denying they were missing star guard Manu Ginobili, who missed the game with lower back spasms. Swingman Roger Mason Jr. also left the game in the first half with a sprained pinkie knuckle.
But in the end, San Antonio showed New Jersey respect.
"I think more is made of [the record] in the media," said ex-Net Richard Jefferson. "They have some talent over there to win some games."
"The Nets did a good job, they got a good win," added Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. "They worked hard for 48 minutes and deserved it."
The Nets, shooting 37.6 percent for the game, were fighting back all game. Staked to a 77-72 deficit midway through the fourth quarter, New Jersey scored eight straight points - starting with a one-handed fader from Harris, accentuated by a 22-footer from Yi Jianlian and finished with a pair of Lee free throws after Harris stripped the ball from George Hill. The Nets had an 80-77 lead with 3:57 left.
After a Tim Duncan bucket, the Nets countered with a sharp Harris-to-Lopez alley-oop connection and scored three points on their next possession -- one on a Lopez free throw off a Spurs defensive violation and the other two on an 18-footer from Williams. That completed a 13-2 run for the Nets. They led 85-79 with 2:40 remaining.
New Jersey maintained its six-point edge before a Matt Bonner 3-pointer with 34 seconds left made it 87-84. Duncan rebounded a Harris missed lay-up on the Nets next chance and the Spurs called a timeout for their final possession, with 12.2 second left on the clock.
But after Bonner inbounded the ball to Duncan, Duncan tried to pass the ball to Hill -- who lunged in the opposite direction just as he let go of the ball. The Nets regained possession as the ball went out of bounds.
Nets coach Kiki Vandweghe deemed the fourth quarter the Nets' best of the season.
"Right now, we're playing for pride and fighting as hard as you can," he said.
"Everyone's happy for 10 wins," Williams added. "But don't get us wrong -- we're still mad about the overall season."
Duncan, who passed Mitch Richmond to move into 33rd on the NBA's all-time scoring list, was held to a relatively quiet 13 points. Ex-Net Richard Jefferson led the Spurs with 16 points.
San Antonio led by 11 in the first half, thanks to 15 first-half points from Jefferson. But the Nets cut their deficit to 46-43 at intermission, even while connecting on just of 16 of 44. A 7-2 run to start the fourth quarter, capped by three points from Lopez, gave the Nets their first lead, at 69-68, since the first quarter.
Jefferson, who played seven seasons with the Nets and was an integral part of their two NBA Finals runs, said he would certainly entertain the notion of rejoining his former team when he becomes a free agent in the summer of 2011 - even though he labeled this year's team as "sad."
"Things can turn around quickly," said Jefferson, who is having an off-year with the Spurs, averaging 12.2 points. "I still have fond memories here. I would have no problem with it.
"The city, the fans, the people have always been so good to me. If the situation ever arose where if it was equal money between here and the Clippers, I'd be here. If it was equal money between here and probably I want to say half the teams that I'd probably be back here."