On Thursday, the Brooklyn Nets defeated the "San Antonio Spurs" 103-89, but the victory against the "Spurs" was really in name only. Although the victory will still possess the same value in the win column as all of the Nets' other wins this season, it should not lead the Nets to thinking that they are actually a better team than the Spurs, especially considering that the collection of players the Nets beat on Thursday were not really the Spurs at all.
Through 50 games this season, the Spurs have played 12,075 minutes and scored 5,193 points. Not appearing in Thursday's contest against the Nets were a group of players, including Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Boris Diaw, and Kawhi Leonard, who have accounted for 50.5 percent of the team's minutes played and 56.8 percent of the points the Spurs have totaled in this campaign.
At best, the Nets were only facing a half-strength Spurs team on Thursday, and even that is probably putting it too kindly since the players who replaced the missing Spurs are nowhere near as effective and efficient. Therefore, the Nets were facing a team comprised mostly of back-ups and role players who were simply incapable of providing the same kind of challenge Spurs' opponents have been used to facing this season.
With the Nets, who had their best players available, possessing such a decided skill advantage over the Spurs' back-ups, it looked like an unfair match-up on paper. To their credit, the Nets also turned it into an unfair match-up on the court as well, defeating the Spurs by 14 points and outscoring them by 15.0 points per 100 possessions for an easy rout as they took control of the game in the second half; the longer a sporting event goes on, the more likely it is that the team with the better players will distance themselves from an inferior opponent, which the Nets did by outgunning the Spurs by 13 points over the last two quarters.
Interestingly enough, on a night where the Nets looked like the superior team because they actually had their best players available, it was a Nets back-up player who actually spearheaded the offensive output for the team. Alan Anderson scored a team-high 22 points as he converted on nine of his 15 field goal attempts including making two three-pointers and also made both of his free throw attempts. In all, Anderson produced 136 points per 100 possessions while handling a heavy offensive lead, at least as far as what he is used to being burdened with; Anderson's 24.0 usage percentage was the fifth-highest in his 47 games this season.
The Spurs also received positive offensive contributions from Paul Pierce, who scored 12 points on six field goal attempts and one free throw attempt, and Deron Williams, who added 16 points and also dished out eight assists. Both players ensured that the Nets offense would keep humming along at an efficient rate.
Beating opponents they should is always the first step on a team's path to success, and the Nets did exactly that on Thursday, establishing their supremacy over the Spurs' less capable players. The Spurs' back-ups and role players are all pretty good, but they are pretty good because they are back-ups and role players and are not called upon to stretch their abilities to the breaking point by playing starters' minutes and carrying a starter's offensive burden for long periods of time.
When they are asked to don the identity of starters, it is like a child putting on a parent's clothes; it is simply not a good fit and they are left to stumble around in oversized clothing and shoes. On the other hand, the Nets looked extremely comfortable in their roles on Thursday, and it showed as they won easily.