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Nets and Spurs follow similar model

The Brooklyn Nets grew quite accustomed to the San Antonio Spurs’ predicament Thursday night at the Barclays Center.

Two older teams matched up Thursday night in the Barclays Center.
Two older teams matched up Thursday night in the Barclays Center.AP/Jason DeCrow

After dealing with injuries much of the year, the Nets lived life on the other side of the coin in a 103-89 win over one of the Western Conference’s best. Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich relied on a starting lineup bereft of four starters. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker missed the game for maintenance due to a double-overtime win over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night. Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili have already missed an extended period of time with an assortment of injuries.

Even reserve Boris Diaw missed the game with a case of food poisoning. Starting point guard Nando De Colo broke his nose in the first half as well.

“I’m really proud of my guys,” Popovich said. “After the (double overtime) game last night, then to come in here tonight, I thought the effort was great.”

As Jason Kidd often points out, no one feels sorry for a team dealing with injuries. For the Spurs and Nets, maintenance and frequent injuries come with the territory. Both organizations trot out two of the oldest teams in the league. Injuries do not represent poor luck; they represent a reality of playing with fire.

This time, the Spurs got burned.

The Spurs assembled the fourth oldest team in the league at 29.1 years of age. Not surprisingly, the Nets rank lower in that category. Brooklyn averages 30.5-years old, good for second to last in the NBA. Only the Miami Heat, who sit in dead last at 30.8 years, are older.

In both teams’ cases, the oldest players are the best players. Popovich’s operation fails to run without Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker. Meanwhile, the Nets rely heavily on Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett. Those three starters average 35 years and 15 NBA seasons.

The Nets dealt with this problem Monday night in their win against the Philadelphia 76ers, but the lesser opponent allowed Kidd & Co. to gamble. Johnson (knee tendinits), Andrei Kirilenko (sore calf), and Andray Blatche (sore hip) missed the game Monday, but all three returned against the Spurs.

To better illustrate the older teams’ mindset, Kirilenko never shied away from his injury concerns.

“I’m worried more right now about staying healthy,” Kirilenko said. “That’s the main thing for me. I’m doing whatever the doctors say, preparing myself for the game. ... I know when I’m healthy, I’m one of the most energetic players.”

The Nets took advantage of their health for a night, although that task took a while. As the Spurs relied on their reserves, the Nets followed suit.

The Nets only led by one point at halftime and five points early in the fourth quarter. Alan Anderson, who scored 22 points, came off the bench to elevate the Nets. At one point during an extended run, Anderson accounted for 17 of the Nets’ 21 points.

Despite a sloppy start to the game, the Nets never took the short-handed Spurs for granted.

“They move the ball so good,” Anderson said. “They’ve been playing with each other for a while. Even the guys that don’t play as much, they know their system.”