The Brooklyn Nets will carry a modicum of momentum and a modest one-game winning streak with them to San Antonio to play the Spurs on Saturday at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. But don't expect the Spurs to be cordial hosts, even with the holidays looming.
San Antonio has struggled at home this season, going just 5-4. But Brooklyn hasn't won in Alamo City since George W. Bush's first year in office (and it's never won in the AT&T Center, which opened in October 2002), so the Nets understand the task at hand is a tall order.
The Spurs lost on the road for first time this season on Thursday, falling 95-91 at Chicago to snap a four-game overall winning streak in the process. San Antonio won its first 13 road games and could have tied Golden State's record of 14 straight (set last year) with a win over the Bulls. Not only did the Spurs not win in Chicago on Thursday, they never even led.
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Kawhi Leonard paced San Antonio in the loss to the Bulls with 24 points, Patty Mills added 16 points and Pau Gasol had a double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds) in his return to Chicago after leaving via free agency in the offseason.
“Most of our games, we haven't been starting with the same edge and energy as we have in the second half, but because of our talent and quality of play, we are able to make up ground,” Gasol said. “We've been able to end up winning most of them. Tonight, we were down (18) and were able to make up some ground, but in the end it wasn't enough.”
San Antonio (18-5) scored just 32 points in the first half, its lowest output in any half this season.
“We played 24 minutes again, just like we have the last 10 games,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. “We go through the motions and that's it. We had one free throw in the first half. We played harder in the second half, but our opponents have outplayed us most of the season in the first half.”
Brooklyn (6-15) heads to the Alamo City off a 116-111 home win against Denver in which it led tip to horn and held off a torrid Nuggets comeback attempt. The Nets are 1-8 on the road this season.
All five Brooklyn starters scored in double figures in the victory Wednesday, with each of them netting 10-plus points in the first half. The Nets became just the second team in the NBA to have all five starters score in double figures by halftime this season.
“It shows great mental strength and persistence the way we held on,” said Brooklyn center Brook Lopez, who led the Nets with 24 points. “I just kept telling them, 'Same way, same way.' Every time I was just trying to just repeat it: 'Just get in. Get out there. Trust each other. Share the ball. Move. Attack the basket. Be aggressive.'”
Nets coach Kenny Atkinson lauded his team after the win for its effort and its balanced contributions.
“We took a punch, two punches, maybe five punches, and we got off the floor and finished it out,” Atkinson said. “That's how we have to do it. We have to do it by committee. We have to share the ball. We have to get everybody involved. That's our goal, our end goal offensively, really sharing it and making sure everybody's got a piece and it hopefully carries over to the defensive end.”
The Spurs won the past 13 games the two teams have played in San Antonio, dating back to a 92-86 loss on Jan. 22, 2002. The Spurs were 2-0 against Brooklyn last season, winning 102-75 in their home opener on Oct. 30, 2015 and adding a 106-79 victory at Barclays Center on Jan. 11, 2016.