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Nets lose OT nail-biter against the Grizzlies, 116-111, without superstars

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Memphis Grizzlies v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

It was a close one with five minutes of bonus basketball included but the shorthanded Nets finished their first back-to-back with another tough loss, this time to the previously winless Memphis Grizzlies, 116-111. With the loss, Brooklyn falls to 2-2 on the season.

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving sat, resting during the first back-to-back of the season. The two are expected to play again Wednesday against the Hawks.

Coming atop the diagnosis of Spencer Dinwiddie’s injury and prospective surgery, the loss ended a bad day for Brooklyn.

Like the loss to Charlotte on Sunday, the game was close throughout. It was tied at 106 heading into the final seconds of regulation. Caris LeVert could not hit a deep three at the buzzer to win it, giving us bonus basketball in Brooklyn.

“As far as the play going into overtime in regulation, just an iso up top. I practice that shot every day so I’ll live with that,” said LeVert post-game. The Nets guard finished with 28 points, 11 assists and five steals, making him the first Net with 25+ points, 10+ assists and five or more steals in a game since Jason Kidd notched 26 points, 15 assists and six steals as part of a triple-double 17 years ago.

The Nets could not buy a bucket in the opening minutes of OT but capitalized on the Grizzlies’ late-game errors to stay in it. Jeff Green was called for a loose ball foul down low with 8.9 seconds remaining, giving Memphis the ball. Grayson Allen then hit two free throws to put the Grizzlies up two with 8.1 seconds remaining. In the Nets’ final gasp, Joe Harris missed a heavily contested three with 3.9 remaining, Kyle Anderson extended the lead to five and Memphis escaped with the win.

“I think we were supposed to inbound it to me,” LeVert said. “I think Landry probably saw it was a little crowded so he just hit Joe - the next closest man so Joe shot a three. We were down two. If that would’ve went in, we would have been up one so we will live with that as well.”

Steve Nash shared his thoughts on that final possession.

“Memphis did a good job,” explained Nash. “They tried to take the ball out of Caris’ hands. On the last play, I thought we had Caris there. Would’ve liked to get the ball in his hands, but we didn’t. I think more than anything we had a tired group at the end of that game on a back-to-back early in the season.”

Despite the loss, there were some positive takeaways.

Outside of player performances from LeVert (28 points, 11 assists and five steals) and TLC (21 points, six rebounds) and Chiozza (career high 14 points, four assists), we saw a lot of emotion from some Nets players that we’re not used to seeing. From Joe Harris receiving a technical —the first of his career— to Jarrett Allen fueled with fire rebounding, converting and-ones, to a Nets bench brimming with excitement … there was a lot to appreciate.

Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, the team was hit with another tough injury. Late in the second quarter, Ja Morant rolled his left ankle, immediately hopping off the court in serious pain. Morant was quickly surrounded by both Grizzlies and Nets medical staff including Brooklyn’s foot/ankle specialist Dr. Martin O’Malley and internist Dr. Michael Farber.

Morant was takend by wheelchair to the Grizzlies locker room and was diagnosed with a left ankle sprain. He returned to the bench wearing a left ankle boot. Morant will be re-evaluated Tuesday in Memphis.

With Morant out, New Jersey’s Kyle Anderson kept the Grizz in the game, scoring a career high 28 points to go along with 11 assists.

Shades of ‘Bubble Nets’

Brooklyn’s “bubble” trinity filled it up: Beyond LeVert’s star turn, Joe Harris put up 14 points and 8 rebounds and Jarrett Allen grabbed 15 boards (more on that in just a second).

But the real story was the return of “bubble” surprise Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot.

T.L.C. The “T” stands for “third-star.” Kidding. Kind of.

Earning his first start since July’s NBA “restart,” Luwawu-Cabarrot filled it up offensively with 21 total points, while also making an impact on the other end with a couple of key deflections––culminating in two steals and a block.

This wasn’t the first time Luwawu-Cabarrot cranked offense as a starter; here’s a gem of a stat from Brooklyn’s PR team.

TLC made two regular season starts last season, both in the Orlando Bubble:

26 points (career-high) on 8/4 against Milwaukee.

24 points on 8/11 against Orlando.

As of now, Luwawu-Cabarrot is working on a partially guaranteed vets minimum deal. Assuming he keeps going, he’ll be yet another free agent in summer. The Nets have TLC’s Early Bird Rights. That’s a good problem to have, considering the Nets signed him to a two-way deal on Opening Night of last season, then elevated him to standard if non-guaranteed deal in January. He looks like he’s going to join the Nets long list of 20-something castoffs who turn into rotation players. With Dinwiddie out an extended period of time, his offense (and confidence) will be needed.

In what was a bit of an up-and-down first-half, the most notable play of all––and one that harkened back to the pass-happy days of the 2018-2019 Nets––was this lovely semi-transition back-and-forth between two “bubble” studs: TLC fired an absolute laser of a skip-pass to LeVert on the wing. LeVert gets run off the line, drives, and then rifles a no-look one-handedbeauty of a dime to TLC positioned in the corner. TLC for three!

When he’s on, he’s on. And he’s on. The 25-year-old Frenchman has a shooting line (so far) of 50/44/100.

Spencer Dinwiddie comments on injury

Spencer Dinwiddie took to Instagram during the second quarter to address his devastating partially torn ACL injury, bringing up his first experience dealing with the injury during his collegiate years at Colorado.

Dinwiddie noted …

  • ‘no other structural damage, minimal swelling, and cartilage intact providing the years of work did their job and protected me.’
  • ‘Pre op prognosis “this surgery should be very simple and straigthforward. Virtually no non weight bearing period post op either. Honestly Spence, your knee looks a lot younger than most 27yr olds.”
  • ‘So in summary if anything I’m excited because I’ve made a living off beating the odds. And these odds say AT WORST I’ll be more than 100% next season.’

Here’s the full statement, from Instagram...

Steve Nash, who’s been very high on Dinwiddie, commented on his injury prior to Monday’s game - emotional and saddened.

“Just deeply saddened for Spencer,” Nash said. “It’s a tough break for him and for us obviously. He is a terrific player who was able to fill multiple roles for us. Gives us a great athlete on top of that so he will be really missed by all of us but more importantly, we all feel for Spence and just look forward to him getting healthy again and being on the floor.”

The Film Room

Caris LeVert got off to a slow start against Memphis. He was 2-for-7 through most of the first half until dropping in a fiery 4 points just before halftime. The play that really got him going was this nasty football-like lateral of a no-look pass to Joe Harris at the wing. The best way to counter for a poor shooting night is to create points for your teammates; LeVert learned that lesson in Round-1 of the bubble playoffs and continues to showcase a strong understanding of that mentality. With every game, he adds yet another pass and spark of creativity to his game.

There has been a lot of discourse about Jarrett Allen’s toughness as a player, especially inside the paint, in his short Brooklyn tenure. Probably a bit too much. The kid is, after all, 22 years old playing in a league of grown men. Against the Grizzlies, however, Jarrett Allen came out with a fire. 15 boards with 5 of them on offense is one hell of a statement to make against Jonas Valanciunas, one of the best traditional, bruising bigs in the league––and a player who would’ve given him trouble down low a few seasons ago.

This is just grit, tenacity and toughness. Also, you gotta love how he goes straight up with it, refraining from bringing the ball down for maybe a dribble or two. It’s the smaller details that can make a difference in a game this close.

Inside resting Kevin Durant & Kyrie Irving

Steve Nash gave a strong hint Sunday in regard to resting Durant for the second game of the Nets first back-to-back. The Nets not only rested Durant but Irving also did not play in Monday’s game against the Grizzlies. Nash spoke about resting the Nets superstar duo prior to Monday’s game.

“Just trying to measure with the demands of those guys and monitoring their adaptation to get back into the NBA,” Nash said about resting Durant and Irving. “Kevin has not played in 18 months and coming off a career-threatening injury. Kai had surgery and he’s played like 20 games in 18 months or more so just got to monitor with all the demands placed on them. Be able to protect them and their ongoing health.”

Following Sunday’s loss to the Charlotte Hornets, Durant said he wants to get back to playing in back-to-backs. To Nash, he is open to that idea but he believes Durant played a lot yesterday and just wants to be cautious.

“We’re open,” Nash said about Durant playing future back-to-backs. “I think last night we played a lot of minutes and we were playing from behind. He had some pretty heavy load and demand metrics so we just wanted to be careful. That is the biggest output he’s had in 18 months or more. Just wanted to be careful, protect him, protect us, and any negative consequences of him playing too much throughout the gates.”

When asked whether Durant resting for Monday’s game affected Irving getting rest as well, Nash does not believe so. He notes both decisions as a unified decision as Durant’s status for Monday’s game was determined late last night while Irving was decided earlier Monday morning.

“I don’t think there was anything different with Kai,” Nash said about resting Irving. “Not sure when it came out or what the protocol was but it was pretty standard and a unified decision this morning.

“If I am not mistaken, I think with Kevin we had a consensus last night late around the time we landed, and then with Kai, it was more of this morning. I don’t think it was anything about sitting them both. I would have been more than happy if everyone was totally open and wanted to play tonight. It is just a matter of protecting them and trying to make the safest long-term decision.”

Despite sitting out the game, both Durant and Irving were very active throughout the game, cheering on and supporting their teammates. As Chris Chiozza noted after the game, it meant a lot to see the Nets superstar duo contribute in that fashion.

“When those two guys were up cheering, it means a lot,” Chiozza said. “To see them when they are not playing - they are bought in and wanting to see everyone succeed. That’s what the whole team tries to do. Not just those two guys but when you’re two leaders are into the game when they are not playing and they are talking you up, giving you advice, telling you what they see - every little bit helps. It helps us learn, feel more connected, and be together as a unit.”

What’s next

The Nets look to snap their short two-game losing skid when they host the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday, Dec. 30 at 7:30 PM.

For a different perspective on the game, head on over to Grizzly Bear Blues, our Grizzlies sister site on SB Nation.