The Memphis Grizzlies blew out the Nets 103-92 on Wednesday night at Barclays Center, taking the game over in the third quarter and cruising to victory.
The Nets have now lost seven in a row to fall to 16-23, with a tough home-and home with the Washington Wizards on Friday and Saturday on the horizon. After that is a three-game west coast trip, with games at Sacramento on Wednesday the 21st, L.A. Clippers on the 22nd, and Utah on the 24th.
The Nets jumped out to a 10-4 lead in the opening three minutes, capped by a slam dunk from Mason Plumlee. This prompted a well-used timeout from Memphis Head Coach Dave Joerger, which stopped the Nets’s momentum. From then on, Memphis took over and raced out to a 32-23 lead at the end of the first, led by 15 points from Courtney Lee.
The second quarter was a different story, as the Nets got back into it and, led by nine points from Mirza Teletovic, held a 45-44 lead on a Joe Johnson lay-up with 2:52 left. Just as in the Houston game Monday night, the Nets fell apart from then on as halftime approached. Memphis closed the second quarter on a 7-0 run, capped by a jumper from Mike Conley with 3.9 seconds left to give the Grizzlies a 51-45 lead at the half.
Memphis, just as Houston did Monday, kept that momentum going into the third. They opened the third on a 15-4 run capped by a Tony Allen reverse layup at the 6:57 mark. Over a roughly eight-minute span, Memphis outscored the Nets 22-4, making it clearly the turning point of the game.
Memphis led by as many as 19, at 76-59, when newly-acquired Jeff Green made two free throws with 2:12 left, and they took an 82-65 lead into the fourth.
Joe Johnson hit a three with 6:22 left in the fourth to cut the Memphis lead to 13, at 90-77. Normally, that would get a rise out of the crowd, as that deficit is not out of reach, but with the Nets riding a six-game losing streak into this one, the Barclays Center faithful gave a tepid reaction, showing they did not believe the Nets had a chance to come back.
One interesting note about the fourth is that Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins brought in Sergey Karasev with 2:25 remaining and the game well into “garbage time.” Karasev was in the starting lineup from their game December 10th in Chicago until last Friday night against Philadelphia. He was not used much in the first month until Hollins inserted him into the starting lineup for Bojan Bogdanovic and made the switch back to “Bogey” this past Saturday in Detroit, and finds himself now struggling for time on the floor. It is interesting considering he is a better defender on Bogdanovic and they were winning with him in the starting lineup.
Zach Randolph led Memphis with 20 points on 8-for-11 from the field, and 14 rebounds. Randolph said of playing against his former coach Lionel Hollins, who used to coach in Memphis until the 2012-13 season, for the first time, “Man, it was different, going up against your old coach. (We’ve been through a lot, a lot of history together, did stuff together in Memphis, turned a franchise around. It was nice to see him out there.”
Marc Gasol had 18 points (6-11 FG) and 8 rebounds, and he said of Hollins, “It was good to beat him. I know how competitive he is, and he knows how competitive I am. It’s always good to win.”
Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins said of Memphis outscoring the Nets 66-40 in the paint, “That’s what they do and they have two big guys. Zach (Randolph) had 20 points, Marc (Gasol) had 18 and most of them were in the paint for both of them. They had 14 offensive rebounds, with Zach having five, and that’s their game. They’re a very good team and they came out. Early on, we were playing but we couldn’t stop them. We started out really good, but then Courtney Lee got going and I think he had about 14 points in the first quarter and 16 in the first half. Once he got going, that helped them not only get back even with us but also helped them take the lead. We just couldn’t score consistently. They’re a very good defensive team and a very good rebounding team. That’s why they’re one of the best teams in the league and we’re out there scratching and clawing. We played extremely hard and we gave a yeoman’s effort to try to win the game, but they were better than us.”
On the difference between when he coach Memphis and how the Grizzlies are playing now, Hollins said, “Well, they have some extra players than what we had. They’re playing the same way and doing the same things. We led the league in points in the paint when I was there, we led the league in forcing turnovers and points off of turnovers. It’s the same team. They shot 17 percent from the three-point line.”
On former players and assistants with Memphis talking to him before the game, Hollins said, “I see those guys all the time, it was nice. I expected it. I wasn’t overly emotional. Those guys text me, not on a regular basis, but they text me from time to time. We were together for a long time. Those guys were puppies and now they’re men. It’s good to see them, but it’s not good to compete against them when they’re firing on all cylinders like they were.”
Brook Lopez, who had 11 points and 4 rebounds, said of how tough it was to contain the Grizzlies, “We didn’t do a very good job of controlling the paint. They got a lot of offensive rebounds. They got a lot of easy looks down there. Numbers tell a story.”
Mason Plumlee, who had 15 points and 9 rebounds, said of containing Memphis, “It was tough. We gave them a lot of easy runs – a lot of air runs, a lot of dunks, and then put-backs, so we didn’t really give them enough recesses inside, and then they hit us from three as well.”