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Nets welcome Grizzilies ... and Ja Morant ... to Brooklyn

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Memphis Grizzlies v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

Well, that was special. After the Nets went down by 21 in the third —and were subjected to “Where’s Kyrie?” chants— Caris LeVert exploded, scoring 51 points including 37 in the fourth quarter and overtime. The performance was aided and abetted by a number of his teammates, including Chris Chiozza, the little used two-way PG, and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. It was the franchise’s ninth 50 point game — and the third this season.

The scene shifts tonight to Barclays Center where the Nets will host the surprising Memphis Grizzlies and their rookie-of-the-year candidate Ja Morant in the second half of a back-to-back, their second in a week. The Grizz last played Monday, a 127-88 blowout of the Hawks. Before that, they beat the Lakers in a statement win. They are on a roll.

Where to follow the game

After their national TV win in Boston, the Nets will be back on YES. You can also listen to the game at WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. Tip off after 7:30 PM.


Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are out. Garrett Temple who was questionable (shoulder sprain) before the Celtics game but played 22 minutes, is out (ankle sprain). Jeremiah Martin and Dzanan Musa were with Long Island Tuesday and played big roles in the G League win. Nicolas Claxton was dispatched to Long Island Wednesday morning.

Grayson Allen (left hip injury), Brandon Clarke (right quadriceps injury), Jaren Jackson Jr. (left knee injury) and Justise Winslow (back injury) are all out.

The game

The Grizzlies won game one in overtime back on October 27 when Jae Crowder came to the rescue in Memphis.

One of the surprise teams in the NBA this season, the Grizzlies are fighting for a playoff spot, currently sitting in the eighth spot, three games ahead of the Kings and six and a half games behind seventh seed Mavericks.

Taylor Jenkins, Memphis’ rookie head coach, is on the short list of NBA coach-of-the-year candidates. Jenkins, in fact, was named the Western Conference’s Coach of the Month for January after leading the Grizzlies to a 11–4 that month.

Although Morant is getting most of the accolades, the Grizzlies are a classic collection of overachievers. Take their 39 point win over the Hawks two nights ago. Memphis had a franchise-record nine players score in double figures against Atlanta. Five reserves reached double digits, including Gorgui Dieng (17 points, 10 rebounds), Tyus Jones (15 points, season-high tying nine assists, season-high four steals), Josh Jackson (16 points, season-high four 3-pointers), Anthony Tolliver (12 points, 4-of-5 from deep) and John Konchar (career-high 10 points).

It’s all about ball-sharing. Memphis leads the league with 19 games with 30-or-more assists, but Monday ended a 13-game streak in which the Grizzlies registered under 30 dimes. They handed out exactly 30.

One final point: Chris Chiozza, one of the heroes of Tuesday’s big win, is a native of Memphis. Just sayin’.

Player to watch: Ja Morant

Then, there’s the 6’3” wunderkind from Murray State. Morant, taken second overall between Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett, in last June’s draft, he has electrified fans with his athleticism, passing and scoring from all over the court.

Morant is averaging 17.6 points and 7.0 assists while shooting 49.3 percent from the field. The only other rookie in NBA history to accomplish this is Magic Johnson, who recorded 18.0 points and 7.3 assists while shooting 54.0 percent in 1979-80. Morant had a career-high 30 points and nine assists in his first game against the Nets.

Here’s how Jack Noonan of our sister site, Grizzly Bear Blues described his contributions Monday night.

He does not always have to impact the game in the box score to dominate a game. He finished with 13 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists. It was an average night, but his biggest impact came to start the second half where he gave a spark to the offense and then they never turned back...

You can see that the offense still depends on Morant even if he isn’t scoring. Everyone expects him to have nights like the ones against the Lakers, but this was a night that mean the most. A sloppy, struggle of a first half needing Morant to guide them on their way. He did just that and was rewarded by sitting the whole fourth quarter.

Is he the rookie of the year? With Zion missing so many games and Memphis possibly making the playoffs, you’d have to give him the nod.

From the Vault

The Nets are celebrating Pride Night Wednesday at Barclays Center. Jason Collins, the first openly gay player in any team sport, will be on hand to present awards to members of the Brooklyn LBGTQ community. It was six years ago this week that Collins and the Nets made history at Barclays Center.

Always great to welcome back Jason Collins.