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Nets travel to Memphis, where things are just a bit unsettled

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NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Brooklyn Nets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no better way to start off the new year than with a win, and that’s exactly what the Nets went out and got against the Pelicans on Wednesday. They played well all the way through, caught absolute fire for a while, relinquished a little bit of their lead and then a whole lot more of it, but closed it out for the “W” nonetheless. It was a mostly drama-free win save for maybe Kurucs Flagrant 1 and Alvin Gentry’s technical. What’s a basketball game without a little chirping of the refs though?

Next up is a trip to Memphis to face the Grizzlies, another Western Conference opponent who beat the Nets in a heartbreaker. The Nets are still in the 9th seed just half a game behind Detroit, with the Bulls (bad), Celtics (good), and Hawks (bad) next up. It’s a great opportunity for the Nets to get some wins and position themselves as the team in the playoffs and not almost in the playoffs. Let’s get into it.

Where To Follow The Game

YES and WFAN at 8:00 pm, ET

Injuries

Caris Levert (foot) Allen Crabbe (knee) Dzanan Musa (shoulder) and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (adductor) are all out. Treveon Graham (hamstring) has been cleared to play and Kenny Atkinson says he will. He’s played just two games and 27 minutes for the Nets back in October, then missed 37 straight. So it’ll be like adding someone brand new to the rotation. Could be fun! Plus with Crabbe and LeVert out, Brooklyn needs some additional outside threats. Graham is a career 44% three point shooter.

Mike Conley is dealing with a shoulder issue and is listed as questionable and Chandler Parsons hasn’t played since October 22nd so it’s highly unlikely he makes his triumphant return in this one.

Meanwhile, as Woj reported Thursday night, the Grizzlies traded MarShon Brooks, Wayne Selden and two second rounders to the Bulls for Justin Holiday. It’s unlikely that Holiday, a 6’6” swingman, will be available for the Grizzlies Friday ... and Brooks and Selden will be gone.

The Game

The Grizzlies have cooled off a bit since we last saw them in action. Losers of three straight and ten of their last thirteen —the opposite of the Nets— they’ve fallen out of the Western Conference playoff picture and once you slip in the West it’s really tough to climb back up. They also reportedly had a little bit of a tiff following their most recent loss to the Pistons. At a players’ only meeting, two of the players, Omri Casspi and Garrett Temple, came to blows. Not good for chemistry.

Marc Gasol is still great and Mike Conley is also still great. This is not breaking news nor should it be. If he’s healthy and plays, Conley is going to be an issue for the Nets. He absolutely wreaked havoc in Brooklyn during the last matchup scoring 37 points to go with 10 assists and a bunch of clutch shots that helped the Grizzlies win in double overtime.

Gasol is for sure healthy and for sure going to be an issue for Brooklyn. He’s averaging 16 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game to go along with 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks. He stuffs the stat sheet in addition to being one of the toughest, most versatile, smartest big men in the league. There’s also just something poetic and even sweet about a guy who’s good playing with his entire career with one team, especially a smaller (actually the smallest) market team like Memphis. I love it.

The Nets hit 51.6 percent of their 31 attempts from three against New Orleans, and some more of that hot shooting would be much appreciated against a good defensive team like Memphis who ranks fifth in the league with a 105.5 Defensive Rating. They’re also second in the league in blocks per game with 6.1 and sixth in the league in steals with 8.8 per game. They can lock it down when they need to. On the other side of the ball they’re not so great.

Memphis scores just 101.5 points per game, 29th in the league. They also hit just 9.3 threes per game compared to the Nets Top-5 ranked 12.3. The Nets are aided by their secondary three point threats like DeMarre Carroll who’s hitting 37% over his last 10 games and Shabazz Napier who over his last three games has been a real threat all over the court, averaging 18.3 points and shooting 58 percent from three.

Atkinson ran out a three-guard lineup for awhile against the Pelicans and while D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie haven’t exactly played well together this season so far, Russell, Dinwiddie, and Napier passed both the eye-test and the stat test. In six minutes of action, a lineup of Russell, Napier, Dinwiddie, Carroll, and Ed Davis had a Net Rating of 61.5.

Scoring 21 points on 53 percent shooting. Against a good defensive team like Memphis who force turnovers and stale possessions, the quick three-guard lineup actually might be a great strategy when one of the Marc Gasol or Jaren Jackson Jr. combo are sitting. Or maybe even if they’re playing! We’ll see if Kenny trusts this group enough to either play it or a variation on it again.

Joe Harris is shooting 48.9 percent from three this season. I have almost no additional comments on that. The number speaks for itself. If I had to muster some thoughts, he’s second in the league behind only Seth, not Steph, Curry who’s at 51 percent. You’d hope it will earn him a spot in the Three Point Contest at the All-Star Game.

Speaking of Seth, I’ve actually been on his corner for a while now, dude can shoot and if he wasn’t always overshadowed by his brother who happens to be one of the most revolutionary basketball players we have and will have ever seen. I’ll talk more about him when the Nets play Portland in February though.

Anyway, Joe Harris is crazy good at basketball and the fact that Brooklyn is only paying him $8.3 million this year and $7.6 million next year is the steal of all steals. Joe is going to be hitting threes in the NBA well into his 30’s. Pretty good for a guy picked up off the NBA scrapheap a couple of years ago. Wait I just looked up his numbers in his last 12 games and he is shooting FIFTY SEVEN PERCENT FROM THREE!! ON 59 ATTEMPTS!!! That is actually absurd and we should never take him for granted whatsoever. Wow.

Player To Watch

Kyle Anderson is one of the slowest, most unique wings in the league. His old-man game is a throwback to a simpler time in the NBA. Memphis is the slowest team in the league with a Pace of 95.71, so Anderson fits right into J.B. Bickerstaff’s scheme. He’s scoring eight points per game and six rebounds while shooting 55 percent from the floor. He came over from the Spurs, so you know his fundamentals and understanding of the game of basketball are on-point. Memphis signed him to a four-year deal where he’ll make about $9 million a year or $37.2 million. Solid deal for both sides.

From The Vault

It seems, to probably no one’s disappointment, that the Nets are now officially out of the running for Mr. Zion Williamson. That’s okay. Winning is fun. However, let’s all say one last goodbye to the freak himself, would’ve been cool to see that vertical in Brooklyn.

Enjoy.

For a different perspective, take a look at Grizzly Bear Blues, our Grizzlies sister site at SB Nation.