Following Joe Johnson’s miraculous bank to steal one against the Denver Nuggets, the Nets had the rare opportunity to head into the All-Star Break on a high note. Much like their disappointing follow-up to the win against the Kings, the Nets came out sloppy and slow and the fearsome Memphis defense made them pay. With Marc Gasol lost for much, if not all, of the season’s remainder, the Grizzlies’ offense flowed through Zach Randolph but Brook Lopez was more than willing to go toe-to-toe.
The pre-game coverage was dominated by Mike Conley’s free agency feelings, but it was actually an ex-Grizzlies player that lead the way for Brooklyn. Wayne Ellington, clearly inspired by the recent efforts of Bojan Bogdanovic and Markel Brown, lead all scorers early with 11 and a perfect 3-3 from long range as the Nets tried to deal with 8 first quarter turnovers. And, after igniting the crowd against the Nuggets, Chris McCullough had a couple moments reminding us of his professional infancy as he get lost on a close-out leading to a Conley three-pointer before setting an illegal pick on him moments later.
Those plays were microcosms of the entire game for Brooklyn as the turnovers just continued to pile up, Vince Carter dominated like it was 2008, and the Nets bench put up another stinker with 0 first half points. Despite the best efforts of Carter (9 points, 8 minutes), the Nets were able to stay within striking range against all odds, heading into the break down just 50-45.
In the second half, the Grizzlies’ incredible defense clamped down on Brooklyn’s stagnant offense and it went just about as well as you’d expect. Lacking any ball movement whatsoever, the Nets were forced into a couple Lopez perimeter heaves and the wheels officially fell off in a flash. What was a 5-point deficit was suddenly 15 after a 10-0 run to start the half and before you could blink it was 25.
In fact, with 11 minutes left in the 4th quarter, Tony Brown waved the white flag in the form of Sergey Karasev, who has played just 1:38 in 2016 prior to tonight.
He played nearly the entire quarter.
Make no mistake, that opposing defense is terrifyingly scary, even without Marc Gasol, but the Nets missed a major opportunity to grab momentum going into one of the franchise’s most crucial breaks ever.
I’m not sure why they’re incapable of putting two 48-minute efforts back-to-back, but it’s concerning. The next time we see the Nets on a court, they may just have a new general manager and vision — but if they keep playing like this, not much will change.
We fully embrace this week off.
The stats: 20 PTS, 8-14 FG, 4 REB, 4 AST, 2 STL, 5 TOV
Early on, Lopez offensively feasted on the smaller Ryan Hollins and Zach Randolph as the Grizzlies had little to nothing worth throwing at the Nets’ center. Although he led all players with 5 (!!) first half turnovers, he also poured in 18 on his own. Fans and writers have been deservedly critical of the Nets’ inability to get Lopez enough looks, but tonight screamed for a 40-attempt outing.
So, of course, he shot just three times and scored two points in the second. Yes, the blowout dictated it, but, gosh, things can go south in an instant with this squad.