New York Post

Spurs catch Nets again in San Antonio


SAN ANTONIO — The Spurs handed out a reminder of why the Nets choose them for the blueprint of their rebuild. The Nets have suffered more at the hands of the Spurs than anyone, and more here in San Antonio than anywhere.

Tuesday was no different, the Nets getting beat up on Boxing Day. The Nets let a single three-minute drought cost them in a 109-97 defeat before a sellout crowd of 18,492 at the AT&T Center, the 15th straight time they have come to San Antonio and left with a loss.

The Nets haven’t won here since the 2003 NBA Finals — a series they lost — and haven’t taken a regular-season tilt since Jan. 22, 2002.

That’s so long ago Saddam Hussein was still on the loose, the Patriots’ dynasty hadn’t been built yet, and George W. Bush was still on his first term in office. But Tuesday San Antonio (24-11) reminded the Nets how far away they are from a finals rematch.

“Offensivel­y we weren’t good enough. They’re physical and they take you out of stuff. But I think we did a good job driving the ball. We were at the rim all night. It is what it is,” said Atkinson, whose team drove over and over but got swallowed up by the Spurs’ defense, with just nine free throw attempts. “It was frustratin­g.”

The Spurs have been what they’ve been for years, Atkinson calling them “a machine.” The Nets are 4-41 all-time on the road against the Spurs, and with general manager Sean Marks sitting courtside next to Tim Duncan, the Nets (12-21) got a look at just how well-oiled that machine is, finally completely healthy for the first time this season.

Kawhi Leonard — who missed 30 games with a quadriceps injury — had a game-high 21 points, while La- Marcus Aldridge added 20 and nine boards. Caris LeVert had 18 points for the Nets, who had the game knotted at 54 but lost it when they allowed an 11-0 run over three minutes in the third quarter.

“We had a couple lapses and they made plays, made shots and did a great job not letting us get over that jump,” Tyler Zeller said.

Allen Crabbe (15 points) had knotted the game when he came off a curl and hit a 3-pointer with 8:55 left in the third. But that’s when the Nets got thrown off by San Antonio’s physicalit­y, and were victims of the big run that included Atkinson picking up a technical.

“Our guys did a good job [ignoring calls]. I don’t think I did a great job honestly. I got a little concerned with it, and that’s not where my attention should be. Wait until my wife finds out I got a technical; she’s not going to be happy,” said Atkinson, who was hit with a T at 6:45 in the third.

“This is what it is, and we’ve got to learn how to play through physi- cality better. I think as we improve we’ll get more respect.”

First they saw Tony Parker (14 points) answer Crabbe’s 3 with his own. And after they got whistled for a three-second violation, Aldridge hit the ensuing free throw and then a turnaround fadeaway seconds later. Pau Gasol (15 points, 12 rebounds) hit a 3, and Parker a floater to leave the Nets down 65-54 with 6:02 left in the third.

“It was a good experience playing against a championsh­ip-contender team. You have to bring everything you have,” said Austin native Jarret Allen, who had 12 points and a career-high nine boards.

The deficit swelled to 76-60. They did respond with a 9-2 run and got it to 100-92 on LeVert’s dunk with 3:23 left, but no closer.

“[Atkinson] ain’t got to apologize. He got a technical because he felt like we weren’t getting the calls we deserve. I feel like he does a great job sticking up for us, fighting for us,” DeMarre Carroll said. “If he didn’t get the technical I was probably going to get it. Lucky he got it so it doesn’t have to come out of my pocket.”

 ?? AP ?? SPURS OF THE MOMENT: Caris LeVert and Manu Ginobili battle for the ball in the Nets’ 109-97 loss to the Spurs, their 15th straight in San Antonio stretching back to the 2003 NBA Finals.
AP SPURS OF THE MOMENT: Caris LeVert and Manu Ginobili battle for the ball in the Nets’ 109-97 loss to the Spurs, their 15th straight in San Antonio stretching back to the 2003 NBA Finals.

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