Nets head to Memphis with unfinished business

(AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
(AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
(AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

Time: 8:00 EST
Location: FedExForum, Memphis, Tennessee
Watch: YES Network
Listen: WFAN 660 AM, 101.9 FM

The Nets will continue their eight-game road trip in Memphis on Monday night as they take on the Grizzlies. Brooklyn will be coming off back-to-back losses this weekend in Utah and Portland, after snapping their 16-game losing streak Wednesday night in Sacramento. In the first meeting this season between these two teams, Memphis headed up a 112-103 win at the Barclays Center behind a 32-point performance from Mike Conley. Also coming off of two straight loses, in Dallas and Houston, Memphis will look to bounce back and continue to push towards their seventh consecutive playoff appearance out of the Western Conference.

Since the return of Jeremy Lin, the Nets have averaged over 105 points per game during that five-game stretch. Coming off of an 18-point performance in Portland on Saturday night, Lin has seen his restriction slowly fade away, as Lin saw over 21 minutes of action. Just through Lin’s presence on the court alone, the Nets have been playing with more confidence and control since his return.

The Nets’ young core has also given them an extra push throughout the road trip. Isaiah Whitehead, Sean Kilpatrick, Caris LeVert, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson have helped energize the Nets as Kenny Atkinson has experimented with different lineups and rotations. On Saturday night in Portland, Kilpatrick went 6-7 from three-point territory off the bench and Hollis-Jefferson added 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists.

The Nets have allowed 100 or more points in 57 out of 61 games this year and the 130 that they allowed against Portland went a long way in offsetting their hot-shooting performance. In the Grizzlies’ visit to Barclays Center in February, ex-Net Vince Carter was a difference maker. Carter shot 4-5 from deep and added 14 points off the bench. Both Memphis and Brooklyn alike count a lot on their bench players, and both teams have created a good balance of scoring and playing time between their starters and second string.

Along with Carter and Conley, the Grizzlies will be led by center Marc Gasol, who will come in averaging over 20 points and 6 rebounds per game. Brook Lopez has had an up-and-down road trip, to say the least. Coming off an underwhelming 9-point performance against the Golden State Warriors last Saturday, Lopez has bounced back nicely since then. Having scored his 10,000th point during this week, Lopez will look to build on the 26 point game he had vs. Portland and carry it over to Memphis.

Brooklyn will be a bit thinner entering this matchup against Memphis, having lost Bojan Bogdanovic at the trade deadline, but that has only allowed younger players to emerge off the bench and provide more quality minutes for Atkinson. The Nets have had some degree of success against Western Conference opponents, with 7 of their 10 victories on the season coming against teams from the West.

3 Things to Watch for in Nets-Grizzlies:

1. Trevor Booker off the bench

When you play a team with such an extensive variety of scorers and rebounders in the front court (like Memphis), it’s always comforting to know that you have a rim protector like Trevor Booker. Since moving to the bench, Booker has seen the quality of his play increase and he has kept the energy up no matter what role he has assumed.

2. Gasol vs. Lopez II

Both big men have expanded their games behind the three-point line recently and one of Lopez’s toughest tests of the year will be against the 2017 Western Conference All-Star. Lopez will look to maintain a level of consistency going forward into the season’s final six weeks and a quality performance in Memphis would go a long way in achieving that. This matchup, of course, will be critical in determining the outcome of this game.

3. Keep pushing through the pain

The Nets will be 10-51 entering this game, but not once this season have they given up until the final buzzer. Coach Atkinson preaches hustle and persistence and his players respond by giving their all every time they take the court. As we have learned (unfortunately), it doesn’t always produce the desired result, but it makes the Nets more competitive and fun to watch as well.