Nets slump continues in ’embarrassing’ loss to Grizzlies

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Brooklyn Nets
Jan 3, 2022; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (12) goes in for a dunk in the third quarter against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Nets head coach Steve Nash didn’t sugarcoat it when he addressed reporters after another ugly loss at the Barclays Center.

Brooklyn looked out of sorts for yet another game, this time a 118-104 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night. The Nets defense struggled to find an answer to stop Ja Morant, who finished with a game-high 36 points on 14-of-22 shooting, and a Grizzlies team that just seemed hungrier to win.

“Our defense hasn’t been great,” Nash said after the Nets’ third consecutive loss. “That was embarrassing tonight. We got our butts kicked and we have to do a lot better to get back to the standard we played at before the interruption.”

Brooklyn’s star players struggled on Monday night. Kevin Durant put up a team-high 26 points, but struggled from the floor shooting 8-for-24 and 2-for-8 from three-point range.

James Harden had 19 points and Patty Mills was held without a point in the loss, while shooting 0-for-6 from field goal range and 0-for-6 from beyond the arc. Since Joe Harris was sidelined by injury, Mills has been one of Brooklyn’s most proficient shooters and it has become evident how much Mills shooting dictates the Nets’ success.

Brooklyn has dropped three straight games since they returned from a successful trip to Hollywood near the end of December. Each loss has taken an uglier turn for the Nets, whose funk knocked them out of the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

“We’re not hanging our hats on the defensive end,” Harden said. “Our offense, we’re making it more difficult just because we’re not getting as many stops as we need to defensively. That’s the game right there. I think earlier we were just focused on defense. We were getting stops and then it made our offense that much easier. We haven’t been doing that as of lately and we’ve been struggling.”

The Nets, who had been dominating teams along the boards entering the game, were outrebounded 62-33 and that included 13 offensive rebounds in the first half. Brooklyn also turned the ball over nine times in the first two quarters.

It was the third quarter where things went even more sideways for the Nets. After Brooklyn cut the deficit to 71-65, the Grizzlies went on a 25-6 run to break away from the Nets for good.

The stretch included a highlight reel one-handed tomahawk slam by Morant that sent the near sell out Barclays Center crowd into a frenzy.

Brooklyn’s schedule won’t get any easier after Monday. The Nets will head to Indiana on Wednesday before playing three games in a four-day span.