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Nets take care of the Grizzlies, 103-94, get over the .500-mark for first time this season

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

BROOKLYN - For the first time this season, at game No. 59, the Brooklyn Nets had a chance to go over .500. On the other side of the ball, however, was a Memphis Grizzlies team that was playing about as good as any team in the NBA since the New Year. The 'Grit and Grind' was in Brooklyn, however, they were without one of the cornerstone players in Zach Randolph, who was out with the flu.

For Brooklyn, Kevin Garnett was out once again because of back spasms. Fortunately, the Nets didn't need Garnett in this one, as they put together another complete performance against a team that is expected to be Playoff-bound in the West, winning 103-94. It got interesting there at the end, but the Nets we able to pull away.

Brooklyn is, for the first time this season, over the .500 mark at 30-29. They are 18-11 at Barclays, 11-2 since January 1.

The Nets got off to a quick start, going up 8-0 before Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger called for a 20-second timeout. Pierce carried the hot hand early for the Nets, scoring 10 points in the first five minutes of the game, and midway through the first the Nets had a 17-2 lead over a struggling Grizzlies team.

Brooklyn was able to exploit the mismatches with Pierce and the team's young bigs, Ed Davis and James Johnson, who were no help in filling in for Zach Randolph.

After one, the Nets led 30-19 on Pierce's 10 points and five rebounds in eight minutes and Andray Blatche's seven points.

Memphis closed out the first on a strong run, and it continued into the second. They were able to close a once 21-2 lead to 30-26 before the 9-minute mark in the second.

Jason Collins checked in early, playing meaningful minutes for the shorthanded Nets. He played well, disrupting the paint on the defensive side of the ball with his length and size, but wasn't much help offensively. Memphis continued to do what they do best, grind away, and were able to keep the game within reach.

Marcus Thornton was a nice spark off the bench in the second quarter. He scored 15 points in 12 minutes. He ha been fantastic since joining the Nets (after a bout of food poisoning) averaging 13.4 points on 47.1. percent shooting overall and 37.5 percent shooting from deep in 22 minutes per off the bench.

At halftime, the Nets led the Grizzlies, 55-44.

A bit of a concern for the Nets early on in the third as Paul Pierce was taken out of the game after a minute-plus. Jason Kidd put Thornton in, who continued to be the offensive spark.

Pierce returned, but his services weren't necessarily needed, as Joe Johnson, along with Blatche, Williams and Thornton, we able to give the Nets a 28-point lead late in the third quarter. Brooklyn was active on both sides of the floor, disrupting the Grizzlies on defense and pushing the pace out of Memphis' comfort zone.

Somewhere in there, Blatche went in Blatch-ness Monster mode, stealing the ball running the break, stopping, spinning and then in the piece de resistance, performed a perfect finger roll. He later called it a "chicken sandwich" and compared himself, jokingly we assume, to Magic Johnson. It was that kind of night at Barclays.

"When he goes into Dray Live mode, anything can happen," said Williams.

At the end of the third, the Nets were up 87-60. Game over.

Memphis made it a little interesting in the fourth, with their bench making a run and closing to within 9 points with just over three minutes, forcing Kidd to bring his starters back in. Fortunately, they were able to close out the Grizzlies' bench.

Kidd has to put the starters back in late, a situation that Deron Williams found "frustrating."

"Up 27, there should be no reason starters should go back in," said D-Will.

Still, when the final stat sheet was handed out, the Nets had picked off 14 steals in this one, becoming the first team in the NBA this season to pick at least 12 steals in four straight games, including 33 in the last two. They have now recorded 14-plus steals in three straight games — something only one other team (Denver in 2011) has done in the last 10 seasons. Their defense has been fantastic.

Thornton finished with 20 points, while Williams went for 16 points and seven assists. Joe Johnson scored a game-high 21 points.

Final score: Nets 103, Grizzlies 94.

Up next is Friday night, on the road, against the Boston Celtics.

For more on the Grizzlies, see: Grizzly Bear Blues