It was the perfect litmus test, a chance to see if the Nets could conquer the demons that have plagued them every time they've stepped onto the court this season against teams with winning records.
The defending champs were in town, winners of eight straight and rested for the most part after Spurs coach Gregg Popovich sat a pair of his stars two nights earlier in Philadelphia. This was the same team that clobbered the Nets 11 days earlier, embarrassing them in a 12-point loss that never felt even that close.
That's what made Wednesday night's 95-93 overtime win that more gut-wrenching. The Nets led by 14 midway through the fourth quarter, only to let the Spurs force OT when North Babylon's Danny Green drained the tying three-pointer with 2.4 seconds remaining.
But the Nets dug down deep to finally earn that elusive victory over a team with an above- .500 record and end San Antonio's impressive streak.
When asked what stood out most to him, coach Lionel Hollins said: "The grit that we displayed. We battled and we hung on.''
Mirza Teletovic, starting in place of a resting Kevin Garnett, was a force with 26 points and a career-high 15 rebounds. Deron Williams had 17 points and nine assists, and Brook Lopez added 16 points, 15 rebounds and three assists for the Nets (8-9)
Green paced the Spurs (13-5) with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
In their usual fashion, the Nets needed a few fortunate bounces to go in their favor after nearly throwing the game away. Bojan Bogdanovic got trapped and lost the ball out of bounds, giving the Spurs a shot at tying it with 9 seconds remaining in overtime.
But Manu Ginobili missed a potential winning three-pointer and a mad scramble ensued on the floor for the rebound, leading to an official replay. After reviewing the footage, the referees determined there was .2 of a second remaining and that there would be a jump ball between the 7-foot Lopez and the 6-3 Cory Joseph. Lopez easily won the tap, preserving the Nets' cardiac win.
Lopez also came through in the clutch near the end of regulation, burying a 20-footer from the top of the key off the glass -- inadvertently, of course -- with 18.1 seconds left. However, the Nets really have Teletovic to thank for coming through with his best performance of the season when needed.
With Garnett sitting out the tail end of a back to back for the second time, Teletovic made his presence felt from the opening tip.
By halftime, Teletovic already had posted his third career double-double, pumping in 13 points to go with 10 rebounds. He made 5 of 6 shots from the floor and played under control. He even ignited a fast break in the first half, getting the ball up court and finding an open spot just outside the lane, where he was the recipient of nice ball movement. A nifty pass from Williams led to a wide-open, righthanded hammer dunk.
Said Hollins: "He had a special night.''