San Antonio really had been the Nets’ Alamo. Until now.
Brooklyn snapped one of the longest road losing streaks in pro sports, Monday night’s 124-113 overtime escape the Nets’ first regular-season victory in San Antonio since 2002.
James Harden led the way with the Nets’ first-ever triple-double in San Antonio — 30 points, 15 assists and 14 rebounds. It was his seventh triple-double with the Nets, and bolstered his rising MVP candidacy.
“They’re a very good team, very disciplined. They’re going to make you beat them. … We kept our composure and made some big plays in overtime,” Harden said in a postgame TV interview. “We’re here to compete every single night.”
The Nets (23-13) won their team-record sixth straight on the road and stayed a half-game behind Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference. They bounced back after having their eight-game winning streak snapped over the weekend — and finally got a road win against Gregg Popovich’s Spurs.
“Sustained longevity, culture. Pop is one of the all-time greats in any sport, so for him to have that command of a program and continually get the best out of his group is remarkable,” Nets coach Steve Nash said before the game. “You could go on and on about all the ways that Pop and all the people involved and players, staff have done an incredible job of sustaining it.
“I’m in a really fortunate position to also say I got to coach against Gregg Popovich in my career. He’s somebody I admire greatly as a coach and a person and what he’s done is historic — really, it’s unprecedented. I admire him greatly and tonight I’m going to try and kick his butt, but I have to say he’s kicked my butt plenty more times than I’ve kicked his so … fingers crossed.”
Nash needed fingers and toes crossed in this one; but the Nets escaped thanks to some huge plays in overtime. Kyrie Irving had 27 points and Bruce Brown added 23 on his typical array of floaters.
They’d dropped 17 straight regular-season tilts in San Antonio, the fourth-longest active streak in the league. Their most recent road win at the Spurs had been Jan. 22, 2002, and they’d never tasted victory at AT&T Center.
But Harden and the Nets flipped that Monday.
After Brooklyn watched the Spurs close regulation with a 10-0 run, the Nets steadied the ship and retook command in overtime.
Irving opened with a 3-pointer, followed by a Harden floater and a Brown 3 to spot the Nets a 116-108 edge with 3:26 left. And this time, they protected that lead, and closed out the game.
Brooklyn improved to 10-3 in clutch games since Harden’s debut. After being just 3-4 before his arrival, his impact has been clear.
Perhaps even MVP-worthy.
“Yes, for sure. He makes the game easier for everybody, especially for me. He finds me at spots he knows I can score the ball. Yes. Secondly, he just makes the game easier for everybody out on the floor,” Brown said. “I think he’s a maestro. He knows how to facilitate things and get guys involved and get us good looks offensively and get us in good rhythm.”
The game was knotted at 81-all after three quarters, and they trailed 84-83 after a free throw by DeMar DeRozan (22 points) a minute into the fourth. But the Nets responded with a 14-2 run to take the lead.
An Irving pull-up jumper capped the spurt and gave the Nets a 97-96 cushion with 6:35 left in the fourth. But they couldn’t hold it, imploding over the final 2:12 as they allowed the last 10 points of regulation.
The Nets let the Spurs claw within a deuce at 108-106, and when Irving missed a finger roll with five seconds left, Dejounte Murray was knocked down, then hit a desperation 20-footer to tie it and force OT.