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Nets barely escape against tanking Grizzlies, 118-115

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NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Brooklyn Nets Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — You’re tanking too? Welcome to Brooklyn!

The Grizzlies, playing without Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, gave the Nets a run for their money despite winning just 19 games this season – an NBA worst. They had lost 19 straight prior to Saturday’s victory over the Nuggets.

It wasn’t easy, but the Nets (23-48) had a big fourth quarter and ultimately prevailed, 118-115. They’ve now won consecutive games for the first time since January 19-21 when they defeated the Detroit Pistons and Miami Heat.

Don’t get us wrong. We know it says “tanking,” but it’s hard to push that narrative when the Nets were only three games better than the Grizzlies entering Monday’s contest. The only thing is, the Nets aren’t tanking.

It just looked that way.

They won this game in the fourth. Turnovers and horrid defense plagued them all game and they trailed by seven entering the final quarter. They gave up a total of 94 points through three, allowing a group of unknown Grizzlies to score 30 or more points in each of the first three quarters.

But then they got it going in the fourth, or more specifically, decided to play defense. Caris LeVert capped off a 12-1 run with a fastbreak slam, giving Brooklyn a 109-101 lead with four minutes left. Around that same time, DeMarre Carroll got into it with Dillon Brooks and the Nets took over from that point on.

More importantly, they were able to stifle the Memphis offense ... finally ... allowing only 21 points.

“You know, actually, I know when it started,” said Carroll afterwards. “It started when I got that tech. I was having a nice day and that kind of helped jump start me. I started making shots and other guys started making shots, so it was a ripple effect and I feel like thanks to (Dillon) Brooks, he kind of woke us up.”

They ended up outscoring the Grizzlies 31-21 in the fourth.

“I just thought we were better at keeping them in front of us,” Atkinson said of the fourth quarter. “They were driving it, we sat down and guarded. I think we did some different things pick-and-roll wise, changed some stuff up, so that might have helped. But really it was the physicality that we put into it. We were playing with fire there, but we got some stops.”

LeVert was outstanding all night, finishing with a team-high 22 points on 7-of-9 shooting in 24 minutes, including 4-of-4 from deep. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson finished with his 10th double-double of the season with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

“He was a difference maker in terms of shot making, it really put us over the edge. He was excellent tonight,” Atkinson said of Allen Crabbe, who finished with 22 points.

It wasn’t all gravy, by any means. The defensive effort was putrid for three quarters. They allowed a team with basically all G League players to shoot above 52 percent from the field with seven players in double figures.

To make matters worse, they committed 21 turnovers, and while they shot 50 percent from the field and hit 16-of-40 from deep, they were outscored by 14 points inside the paint. Again, that’s without Gasol.

And D’Angelo Russell was 5-of-17 overall, 1-of-10 from deep, hurting his March shooting stats which only two games ago were exemplary.

A win is a win no matter how you get it, but this was an ugly one. They have 11 games left.

BUCKS LOSE, ENHANCING PROSPECT OF TWO SECONDS

The Cleveland Cavaliers took down the Milwaukee Bucks Monday as well, 124-115. Each Buck loss enhances the prospect that the Bucks second rounder will be conveyed to the Nets, giving them a first rounder (Raptors) and two seconds (Lakers and Bucks). As of Monday night, the Nets have the 28th, 42nd and 44th picks. Not bad, considering that last July, they had none.

With the Nets starting to plan seriously for the Draft after a season scouting college and international players, they have the possibility of owning three picks come June 21.

ANOTHER TANK WEDNESDAY?

The Nets play the Hornets on Wednesday, and although they are out of the playoffs for all intents and purposes, they probably shouldn’t be considered tanking. They’re 30-41, and they’re pretty much in line for the 10th pick overall. The Knicks record is four games worse (or better when talking tankathon), so only a real deep dive would get them higher than 10th.

SR. SWAG DADDY

We all know about DeMarre Carroll’s passion for fashion. Before the game, NetsDaily caught up with him and he said, “I took this one to another level!”

Carroll stayed solid with 18 points on the night, and head coach Kenny Atkinson praised him after the game.

“He’s just a tough winner. It’s just who he is. He’s not a take over the game guy. He does what is necessary to win a ballgame. I thought his will helped us. Obviously he’s a big shot maker, you know, when you need a shot to go down, he seems to come up with the big shot. He’s playing great.”

Look good, feel good, play good.

***

For the latest on the team, check out Pooch’s “State of the Nets”.

For post-game audio, click here.

And for a different perspective, head on over to Grizzly Bear Blues.