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Nets pull away, defeat Grizzlies 97-88

Both teams were depleted, but the Nets got some big performances from Johnson and Blatche and key contributions from Teletovic and Lopez to gain the victory.

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The Nets survived a furious 4th quarter run by the shorthanded Grizzlies - and moved to within two games of the 8th seeded Celtics - by recording just their 5th victory of the season in Memphis tonight.

As usual, the Nets were shorthanded themselves in this one, with the ailing Paul Pierce sitting out and Deron Williams, Andrei Kirilenko and Jason Terry seemingly nowhere near ready to get back to game action.

Brook Lopez was the obvious choice to pick up the slack, but he looked rusty early against the depleted Memphis frontcourt (Zach Randolph was a late scratch with an ingrown toenail, joining Marc Gasol on the sidelines.)  Instead it was Joe Johnson who jumpstarted the Nets' offense - with a 16 point 1st quarter barrage on his way to a team high 26.

Andray Blatche then proceeded to fill up the score sheet (21 points, 8 rebounds, 7-10 shooting, 3-3 from three) and helped the Nets build a healthy 15 point 3rd quarter lead. Jason Kidd had high praise for Blatche's defense as well. In a quote never heard in Washington, Kidd said, "Dray was totally into the game ... When he's talking out there, he's like KG, a guy other guys can feed off of."

However, the Grizz, led by backup G Quincy Pondexter (22 points, 8-12 shooting, 3-5 from three) cut that lead down to one early in the 4th.  Would panic set in?  Would the league's worst defensive team play true to form and drop yet another game on the road?

The answer game in the form of some huge shots of the fingertips of Mirza Teletovic - righting the ship and giving the Nets some breathing room.

And from there, Lopez took over, pouring in 13 of his 20 points in the 4th and burying the Grizzlies for good.

Quick Notes

- The banged-up Nets needed a starter, so Kidd tabbed Tyshawn Taylor to make his first NBA start.  He wasn't much of a factor (2-5, 6 points, 0 assists, 3 TO), but it speaks to the work he's putting in that he got the nod.

- Blatche drained a career-high 3 three-pointers - matching his total from last season.  He also took on a lot of the ball-handling duties in the absence of a true PG in the Nets' lineup.  This guy is not your average backup center.

- Reggie Evans was a healthy scratch.

Grizzlies recap from Grizzly Bear Blues: Four All-Stars sit as Nets trump Grizzlies in Memphis