Three Steps Forward, Three Steps Back for Nets

The Memphis Grizzlies thoroughly dominated the Nets on their way to a 95-86 win on Tuesday night, the third straight loss in a row for Brooklyn to start their “Circus Road Trip.”

The Nets had shown great progress last week, as they came back from ten points down to beat the Clippers on Monday the 2nd, won in Toronto two nights later, and won the inter-city battle with the Knicks on Friday night at Barclays Center. That was their third straight win and brought them into a playoff spot at 21-18. The night after the win against the Knicks, they were blown out by the Washington Wizards, and followed that with a loss Monday to their nemesis Jason Kidd and his Milwaukee Bucks. With this loss in Memphis, the Nets fall back to ten games under .500, at 21-31.

For Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins, this was his first trip back to Memohis, who he coached 0n three different occasions, the last one from 2009-13, and led them to the 2013 Western Conference Finals. They showed a video of Hollins’ best moments there before the game, and Hollins said of the ovation from the fans, “It was great. I enjoyed it from a standpoint of the respect that they showed and the admiration for the work I’ve done here. But it was about trying to win a game.”

Hollins continued, “It was an emotional time. I remember all those times. I was here a long time, you know? I was part of this organization for a long time. I was in Memphis for 13 years, I was in Vancouver for five years. … I was with the team a long time.”

Hollins said of the Grizzlies, who are 39-13, second place in the Western Conference, “I’m happy for [the Grizzlies], but it’s not about me. It’s about them. I’m happy for them, of course, but as I’ve said before, it’s always about the players.

“They do the work, they allow you to coach and you just direct it and try to give them the right way to go and if they want it, they’ll go get it and you sit back and watch.”

The Grizzlies came out firing in this one, taking a 32-15 lead at the end of the first and a 40-20 lead in the second quarter. Deron Williams, who was held scoreless Monday in Milwaukee, hit a couple of jumpers and a three to help the Nets get back in it, and pull to within 11, at 43-32 with 5:31 left in the second. Memphis got the lead back up as high as 13, and they took a 12-point, 52-40 lead, into halftime.

Memphis’ Courtney Lee scored their first eight point of the third, part of an 8-1 run to open up a 60-41 lead. The Nets got as close as 13, at 62-49, on a Joe Johnson jumper with at the 6:07 mark.

Memphis was up 14, at 73-59, late in the third, when a scary moment happened for the Nets. While trying to defend against a Memphis pick-and-roll, Nets point guard Jarrett Jack got caught in an awkward position and wound up kicking the ball out of bounds. Shortly after that, he was holding his left hamstring. He then went to the locker room to get it taped up and did not return. This was inevitable, as Jack had logged 40-45 minutes a night for the past month, as the Nets have little depth at point guard.

Memphis took a 75-62 lead into the fourth quarter. Beno Udrih had seven points in the first five minutes of the fourth, and his three made it 83-69 Grizzlies with 7:07 left. Memphis led by as many as 17 in the fourth, at 90-73, on a Tony Allen layup with 3:56 remaining. The Nets responded with an 11-1 run, capped by a Deron Williams layup with 1:16 left that made it 91-84 Memphis. The Grizzlies put it away on their next possession, which started with a crazy sequence, followed by a Mike Conley miss, and Marc Gasol got an offensive rebound off that, leading to a Zach Randolph jumper with 35 seconds left to make it 93-84 and seal the win for the Grizzlies.

The Nets were led by Mason Plumlee and Alan Anderson, who had 15 points each. Plumlee shot 6-for-10 from the field, and had 14 rebounds to go along with his 15 points for a double-double. He also had 3 steals and an assist. Anderson shot 5-9 overall and 2-5 on threes for his 15 points, with 4 rebounds and a steal.

Jarrett Jack played 30 minutes, with his night cut short due to the hamstring injury. He had 12 points on 6-for-11 from the field, with 3 assists, and a dreadful 6 turnovers, a big chunk of the 20 committed by the Nets. Brook Lopez also had 12 points, but had his worst shooting night in quite a while, as he was 5-for-14 from the field, with 4 rebounds and a block.

Before the Nets’ last home game on Friday the 6th, Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins said this trip was long, but unique in that it is divided into two parts. The first part was the three losses in Washington, Milwaukee, and Memphis. With the All-Star Break, the Nets have a full ten days off until they return on February 20th in Los Angeles against the Lakers, who are 13-38 in 14th place in the Western Conference. They then have two days off before playing the Nuggets in Denver on the 23rd. Denver is 19-33 in 11th place in the West. They then play Anthony Davis and the Pelicans in New Orleans on the 25th. The Pelicans are 27-25 in 9th place in the West. The trip concludes with a Texas two-some, as the Nets take on the Rockets, who are third-best in the West with a 35-16 record, in Houston on the 27th; and the Mavericks, the 5th-best team in the West at 35-19, in Dallas on the 28th.

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