Nets look to halt losing streak against Memphis Grizzlies

Nets coach Lionel Hollins was once the lead dog in Memphis. (AP)
Nets coach Lionel Hollins was once the lead dog in Memphis. (AP)

The road’s still challenging for the reeling Nets (16-22) as they welcome another Western Conference powerhouse in the Memphis Grizzlies (26-11) to Barclays Center.

Kevin Garnett will serve a one-game suspension during tonight’s game after headbutting Dwight Howard in Monday’s night loss to the Rockets, and Deron Williams (fractured rib cartilage) will miss his fourth straight game with no timetable for his return as he continues to rehab. “They’re doing some laser and heating it up,” Williams said when asked what kind of treatment he was getting. “Just rest. Other than that, there’s nothing really you can do.”

Williams’s absence has stung during the losing streak, especially from behind the arc: they’ve shot just 22.7 percent on three-pointers since the new year. The offense has had positive spurts to keep them in games, but the cold stretches have set the team back to the point where the head coach can only just shrug his shoulders. “We don’t make shots,” Hollins said before Monday’s game. “That is an identity. If you don’t make shots, that’s a part of who you are.”

The Grizzlies start the day with the fourth-best record in the Western Conference, just a half-game behind the Southwest Division-leading Rockets. Dave Joeger, an assistant for four seasons under Lionel Hollins for this Grizzlies team before taking over last season, led the Grizzlies to a 21-4 start, but the’ve since dropped seven of their last twelve.

Despite their recent mediocre play, the Grizzlies’ core four of Tony Allen, Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, and Zach Randolph are all having strong years, in the midst of their fifth season playing together with numerous playoff battles in their pocket. Gasol, a free agent at season’s end, is having his best offensive season, averaging 19.5 points per game on 50 percent shooting. The former Defensive Player of the Year is also averaging 3.7 assists per game, as Joerger continues to mix his adept passing in the high post with Randolph’s low post prowess to create a matchup nightmare for opponents.

The rich just got richer on Monday. In a three-team trade that sent Tayshaun Prince and a protected first-round pick to Boston, as well as Quincy Pondexter to New Orleans, the Grizzlies acquired talented swingman Jeff Green from the Boston Celtics. Green’s averaged 15.7 points per game in three battles with the Nets, and could make his debut tonight. The Grizzlies have not gotten offensive production from ex-Nets guard and possible future Hall of Famer Vince Carter this season, so the addition of Green can bolster a second unit that has lacked offensive versatility.

Despite the losing streak, Mason Plumlee continues to scorch the twine. Plumlee’s shot 71.3 percent (77-108) the past 13 games, including his career-high 24-point game on 10-for-11 shooting Monday night. Since the start of December, only DeAndre Jordan (69.3 percent) has a higher field goal percentage than Plumlee’s 64.1 percent.

The Nets just need to reclaim their shooting touch because the defense has been stingy, holding teams to 43.7 percent shooting and 96.6 points per game in the past 23 games.

A critical stretch is looming: The Nets face winning teams in nine of the next eleven games, and hold a record of 2-13 against teams with a .500 record or better.

Tip-off is at 7:30 E.S.T at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.