Nets take advantage of shorthanded Spurs
Despite playing without Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard, their top four scorers, the visiting Spurs were still within five points early in the fourth quarter before the Nets pulled away for good.
Deron Williams added 16 points and eight assists as Brooklyn ended a six-game losing streak to San Antonio with its first victory against the Spurs since March 29, 2010.
So banged-up that at one point that they had two players on the court wearing facial masks to protect broken noses, the Spurs fell to 2-1 on their nine-game road trip.
Paul Pierce had 12 points for the Nets, who have turned things around since the Spurs outclassed them 112-93 in San Antonio on New Year's Eve, leaving Brooklyn at 10-21. They are 12-4 in 2014 and have won two straight since dropping three in a row, all against division leaders.
The Spurs trotted out Green, Marco Belinelli, Tiago Splitter, Joseph and Nando De Colo to start, an unheralded lineup similar to the one Gregg Popovich used when he sent Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and Green home before another Thursday night nationally televised game at Miami early last season.
That decision cost the Spurs a $250,000 fine from former Commissioner David Stern, but Popovich didn't have much of a choice who he played this time.
Ginobili (left hamstring) and Leonard (broken bone in right hand) were already out, and Popovich noticed Parker laboring with a back injury during the first half Wednesday. Parker then sat the remainder of the game, and Duncan played a season-high 40 minutes, well more than Popovich prefers to use the 37-year-old forward and essentially mandating a night off yesterday.
Making matters worse, Boris Diaw then was vomiting during the day at the team hotel because of food poisoning and couldn't play. De Colo broke his nose in the first half when he was whacked while trying to defend Andrei Kirilenko, though returned in the second half wearing a mask, as Matt Bonner already was.
Noteworthy* Portland's Damian Lillard will become the first player to compete in three events during All-Star Saturday night in New Orleans, including a slam dunk contest that features three All-Stars for the first time in 26 years.
Indiana's Paul George and Washington's John Wall also will take part in the night's marquee event Feb. 15. There haven't been three All-Stars in the dunk contest since the famed 1988 duel, when Michael Jordan beat Dominique Wilkins on his home floor in Chicago, in a field that also included Clyde Drexler.
Lillard, the reigning Rookie of the Year, will play in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night before defending his Skills Challenge title and competing in the three-point contest.
The remainder of the dunk field is defending champion Terrence Ross of Toronto, Golden State's Harrison Barnes and rookie Ben McLemore of Sacramento.
* The Cleveland Cavaliers made a big change with another season falling apart, firing general manager Chris Grant. Vice president of basketball operations David Griffin will serve as acting general manager. Owner Dan Gilbert made it clear he's unhappy with what has transpired in a season that began with hopes the Cavs would make the playoffs after a 3-year absence.
* Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers was fined $5,000 by the NBA for violating the league's anti-flopping rules for the second time this season.