San Antonio enters today with a 24-7 record, good for first place in the Southwest division, and tied for the third-best record overall in the NBA. They would be the second seed in the Western Conference if the season ended today, and they've always been a formidable opponent for the Nets in the Gregg Popovich era.
The Spurs have beaten the Nets 10 straight times in the regular season, and 19 of their last 20 regular season meetings overall. Other than two wins in the 2003 NBA Finals, the Nets have not beaten the Spurs since January 22, 2002. The Spurs swept the two-game season series last year, winning by an average of 28 points per game.
Needless to say, it'll be quite the uphill battle for Brooklyn tonight. The Nets are just 4-36 in games played in San Antonio all-time.
The two teams squared off on New Year's Eve last year as well, a 104-73 Spurs win that included an infamous 5-point third quarter for the Nets. I only wish that were a typo.
Key Matchup: Tony Parker versus Deron Williams is always a great battle. Parker got the best of the matchup last year, outscoring D-Will 49-23 in the two head-to-head games, with a 17-4 advantage in assists. A microcosm of the Spurs' dominance.
This year, the 31-year-old Parker is averaging 18.0 points and 6.1 assists per game, and he's shooting a career-high 45.2% from three-point territory, compared to a 31.6% career average from behind the arc. It hasn't been a huge part of his game in recent years, (and it's only 31 attempts so far) but it's worth keeping an eye on.
Player to Watch: Paul Pierce has returned to the starting lineup in recent games, and he had a strong game against the Pacers on Saturday, with 18 points on 8-of-14 shooting, five rebounds, three steals, two assists and a block. The Nets need to generate more offense in the second half, something they've struggled with all year.
A bonus player to watch could be Andrei Kirilenko, who is fighting hard to return to the court tonight after debilitating back spams have kept him out of 26 of the Nets' 30 games, including the last 24 in a row. AK47 is optimistically listed as probable.