Last night’s game started so promising. The Nets (21-30) came out guns blazing, shooting 70 percent from the field in the first quarter, followed by an 11-0 run to start the second to go up 41-24 with 7:45 remaining.
But the lead would quickly vanish, thanks to 10 first-half offensive rebounds that led to 17 more Bucks shot attempts than the Nets, and disruptive defense which spurned 20 points off 16 Nets turnovers.
The result: a 103-97 loss at the hands of their old coach’s team.
Tonight, the Nets will face another stingy defensive team: the Southwest Division-leading Memphis Grizzlies (38-13), ranked first in the league in opponents points per game (95.7) and eighth in points allowed per 100 possessions (100.2). The Grizzlies have won 13 of their last 15 games, including a 94-88 win on Sunday against the Eastern Conference-leading Atlanta Hawks (43-10). Lionel Hollins’s former squad out-rebounded the Hawks 55-37, led by Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph’s 25 combined boards, while their defense held the second-best shooting team in the league to just a 41.2 percent conversion rate. The win put Dave Joerger’s team, currently the second seed in the West, three games ahead of the second-place Houston Rockets.
The last time the Nets faced Memphis was on January 14th, in a 103-92 Grizzlies win led by Randolph’s 20 points and 16 rebounds. Despite a productive game off the bench from Mirza Teletovic (12 points, six rebounds), the Nets were done in by allowing 22 points off 18 turnovers, leading to their season-high seventh straight loss.
With ten days off after tonight’s game, the Nets are faced with internal questions for their final 30 games and the overall direction of the team. There have been oodles of trade rumors swirling around the franchise all season, but coach Hollins’s mindset has not wavered from the task at hand.
“All I’m saying is we’re trying to build consistency as a group.” Hollins said before last night’s game, “If we can stay healthy and have some continuity, we’ll be able to have a better view of where we can be and what our needs really are.”
One hindrance of the aforementioned continuity has been Deron Williams’s health. While fighting an illness during last night’s contest, Williams played 22 unproductive minutes, shooting just 0-5 with four assists and four turnovers, including a few ill-advised passes into the teeth of Milwaukee’s defense. In fact, Williams has missed his last 19 shots from the field and doesn’t look to be on track to regain his starting job anytime soon, especially with Jarrett Jack playing at a high level.
Ex-Nets guard Vince Carter, who has missed the last five games with a torn tendon in his left foot, will miss tonight’s game while continuing his rehab regimen. He will re-evaluated after the All-Star Break before an estimated time for his return will made public.
Tip-off is at 8:00 PM E.S.T. at FedEx Forum in Memphis.