Jae Crowder was the least of Brooklyn’s worries, so they thought.
Caught in their second overtime in three games, the Nets had multiple opportunities to win this game. Ja Morant missed what would’ve been the go-ahead bucket with eight seconds left, then turned the ball over on an inbound pass down one. Should be fine, right?
Spencer Dinwiddie was fouled but missed the second free throw and the Nets led by two. Down came the rookie threat Morant who was the focus the Nets D.. He handed it off to Crowder at the top of the key. Crowder pulled up and nailed the game-winning three as time expired. It was a 134-133 loss for Brooklyn, their second overtime loss and one that was plagued by missed free throws... among other things.
“I’m not going to lie -- at first, when I went behind the back, I was just trying to get my feet set and Jae Crowder was like, ‘Trailer!’” Morant said. “And I knew that both defenders were on me, so I just hitched back and backed into the other defender, so they wouldn’t be able to contest a shot, and I believe in Jae the whole way. He delivered for us tonight.”
Brooklyn led 118-110 following a 10-0 run, capped off with a Kyrie Irving three-pointer — 3:20 left in the game. However, behind Morant’s lead, the Grizzlies closed out the fourth on a 10-2 run, with the rookie blocking Irving’s mid-range shot that would’ve ended the game. The Nets went scoreless for the final two minutes of the fourth, resorting to isolation ball rather than utilizing off-ball movement — and just ball movement in general.
The scoring prowess of Irving, Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie is certainly a nice luxury to have, but through three games it’s certainly affecting the style of ball that Kenny Atkinson wants his team to play. It’s almost as if everybody is standing around watching in awe as Irving or LeVert look to create for themselves and the rest of the offense. Thus, there’s little off-ball screens leading to open shots for others. Prior to Sunday, the Nets were 30th in the NBA in passing, per John Schuhmann.
They've played just 2 games, but the Nets rank 30th in the league with just 284 passes per 24 minutes of possession, via @SecondSpectrum. They ranked 12th (346) last season.— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) October 27, 2019
Again, this is not how they want to play.
Irving finished with a near triple double with 37 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. He joined Vince Carter and Stephon Marbury who have tallied 25+ points in each of the first three games of a Nets season. He’s also registered 113 points through three games, which marks the most points scored through a player’s first three games with a new team in NBA history. That’s 37.7 points per game.
LeVert dropped 27 points and Dinwiddie finished with 16 points and eight assists off the bench but shot a disappointing 3-of-13. Jarrett Allen finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds after being dropped from the starting lineup for DeAndre Jordan.
The rebuilding 1-2 Grizzlies gave the Nets a run for their money all throughout the night and tested them, taking a 13-point lead following a 17-3 run in the second quarter. The Nets climbed back, but their inconsistent play on both sides of the ball doomed them.
Morant finished with 30 points and nine assists — 19 of the 30 coming in the fourth quarter and overtime period.
“I expected him to come out aggressive, be who he is,” Irving said of Morant. “Got downhill a couple of times, finished over our bigs. Didn’t really hit the outside shot tonight, which we wanted to encourage, but he did what he’s pretty great at, what he’s known for, and that’s getting in the paint, playing with a lot of passion, and I think he showed that tonight.”
“Obviously, a very talented player,” Kenny Atkinson said of Morant. “Hit some tough shots. His quickness, his speed to the rim, just was getting downhill on us a lot.”
The Grizzlies shot 42.4 percent from three, dished out 33 assists and committed only 12 turnovers on the night.
Brooklyn, meanwhile, attempted 45 three-pointers and hit on 15 of them — 7-of-17 in the second half. They dished out 28 assists and turned the ball over 27 times. That makes 55 turnovers in the last two games.
The Nets had plenty of opportunities to pull away.
They did an outstanding job attacking the hole in the third quarter, forcing 11 personal fouls against Memphis which propelled them to score 40 points in the quarter. The problem? They gave up 33 points. They were lost in the pick-and-roll with Morant tearing them up all night.
The offense is an issue, sure, especially in big moments. But the defense an even bigger issue.
“We could never get stops. I don’t know how many straight possessions they scored, but I never felt like we could get the requisite stops to win this game,” said Atkinson. “We didn’t deserve to win.”
It’s way too early in the season to jump to any sort of conclusions, but nobody in that locker room is feeling great about the way they’ve played these first three games. They lost by one against a young Timberwolves team, barely defeated the rebuilding Knicks by four, and then a disappointing one-point loss against a very young Grizzlies team on Sunday.
They’ll look to redeem themselves against the Indiana Pacers at home on Wednesday.
KYRIE MESMERIZING ... AGAIN
Win or lose, no Nets game is complete without one jaw-dropping move from Kyrie and here’s tonight’s...
The Nets will be able to add a replacement player for Wilson Chandler starting on Friday, the fifth game of his 25-game suspension. The Nets can keep the replacement player through December 15, the last day of Chandler’s suspension at which time they will have to get back down to 15 players.
The presumption has been that the Nets will add Lance Thomas who they waived at the end of training camp and is a free agent. Like Chandler, he is a veteran and a 3-and-D, something the Nets could use.
No matter who they add, he will be limited to paying him nothing more than the minimum since they are already over the cap.
Of course, the Nets won’t need to add a player. They could, for example, give minutes to one or both their two-ways, Henry Ellenson or Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. Both have extensive NBA experience: Ellenson has played in 76 games while Luwawu-Cabarrot has been in 171. Luwawu-Cabarrot would not a one-for-one replacement for Chandler but if the Nets feel comfortable going with Rodions Kurucs as a back-up for Taurean Prince, TLC could still be valuable on the wing.
Another possibility is to give Nicholas Claxton minutes. None of the three —Ellenson, Luwawu-Cabarrot nor Claxton— has been active yet this season.
Kenny Atkinson experimented with some small ball in Memphis, putting Joe Harris at the 4.
“Yeah, I felt they went small, so, we kind of matched going small. I liked it. It’s something we’ll look at,” Atkinson said. “Joe was at the four. I think you’ll see games with as many good perimeter players as we have, there’s going to be different guys in there. Sometimes, we go super small with Taurean at the five. We need that in our package.”
As Bobby Marks reported last week, Taurean Prince’s two-year, $29 million contract is packed with likely and unlikely bonuses that will ultimately bring his deal down to around $25 million ... barring some surprising accomplishments.
John Hollinger of The Athletic laid a couple of them out in his story Sunday that delved into some of the odd bonuses around the NBA.
Another nerdy extension provision is this gem in Taurean Prince’s deal with Brooklyn: He will receive exactly $334,375 if the Nets post a Defensive Rating below 105 in his minutes. (Nobody tell him, but no team in the league had a Defensive Rating below 105 last season)
Finally, geeks will also enjoy another Prince provision, stating he must attempt at least 7.6 3-point attempts per 36 minutes and shoot better than 41.5 percent on 3s to cash in on another $334,375. The insistence on shot attempts is likely a reaction to the end of Moe Harkless’s 2016-17 season, when he stopped shooting 3s late in the season because he had locked up a $500k incentive-based solely on his percentage.
Good Luck, Taurean!
- Box Score: Memphis Grizzlies 134, Brooklyn Nets 133 (OT) - NBA.com
- Recap: Memphis Grizzlies 134, Brooklyn Nets 133 (Video) - NBA.com
- Breaking down the Nets’ overtime loss (Video) - Ryan Ruocco & Sarah Kustok - YES Network
- Atkinson laments defensive issues (Video) - YES Network
- Wear Brooklyn At? (Video) - YES Network
- Crowder hits 3-pointer as expires in OT, Grizzlies top Nets - Clay Bailey - AP
- Crowder’s 3 at buzzer lifts Grizzlies past Nets - Larry Fleisher - Reuters
- Nets dealt heartbreaking OT buzzer-beater loss by Grizzlies - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Nets’ Jarrett Allen bounces back with strong effort off bench - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Nets blow another lead, fall to Grizzlies in OT - Greg Logan - Newsday
- Coach Jenkins models Grizzlies on Atkinson’s Nets - Greg Logan - Newsday
- Grizzlies’ Ja Morant edges Nets’ Kyrie Irving in wild 134-133 OT finish - Garrett Stepien - SNY
- Another overtime loss showcases the Nets early season defensive woes - Alex Schiffer - The Athletic New York
- GRIZZLIES 134, NETS 133: BROOKLYN STUNNED ON MEMPHIS’ OT BUZZER-BEATER - Tom Dowd - Brooklyn Nets
- KENNY ATKINSON A MODEL FOR MEMPHIS COACH TO FOLLOW - Tom Dowd - Brooklyn Nets
- GALLERY: NETS VS. GRIZZLIES - Brooklyn Nets
- Quotes from Kyrie Irving, Joe Harris and Kenny Atkinson - Tom Dowd - Brooklyn Nets
- Ja Morant goes off, leads Grizzlies past Kyrie Irving’s Brooklyn Nets on buzzer-beater - David Cobb - Memphis Commercial Appeal