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The Woes: Nets drop their third-straight, losing to Grizzlies 118-104

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

Make it a three-game losing streak for Brooklyn and other than their early season loss to the Warriors, their most embarrassing defeat on their home floor.

The Nets were beaten, not just defeated, by the Grizzlies, 118-104, Monday night at Barclays Center. With another disappointing loss sprinkled with some bright spots, Brooklyn falls to 23-12 on the season and 10-9 at home. The Nets home record is in the bottom 10 of the NBA.

“I think our defense. Our defense hasn’t been great and tonight, it was more of the finishing possessions and offensive rebounds. Our defense can improve and part of it is we can’t panic,” said Nash on the three-game losing skid. “It’s been a crazy period where we had eighty-ninety percent of our team get COVID. We were in a transition coming out of that and it was a big stop to the momentum in the season.

“Let’s not overreact but that was embarrassing tonight. We got our butts kicked and we got to do a lot better to get back to the standard that we played at before the interruption.”

The only saving grace on a bad night: With the Nets down and out, trailing by 27 early in the fourth, Steve Nash inserted three of his rookies. With little hope, it was the rookies who provided instilled some. Cam Thomas, who scored all of his eight points in the fourth was swishing and showing flashes of dishing, passing out three assists as well to lead the deep bench unit back into the contest.

The young legs got the deficit down to 11 with 1:49 left. The Nets used their coach's challenge and it was deemed successful, but the foul was simply moved from one Nets to another and the Grizzlies remained composed, holding on to their double-digit lead to finish out the contest.

“I love the young guys and what they bring to our team. It’s good to see them get some minutes and opportunities to make it a game and they did, for sure,” said Durant on the young players play in the fourth quarter. “They had to put their starters back in so you got to give them credit. I’m glad Steve didn’t put the starters back in for us and let those guys finish the game off for us. It was inspiring. It was good to see.”

While Ja Morant looked All-World, finishing with 33 points and six assists, it was a rough shooting night for Brooklyn’s superstar duo, particularly the game’s other “rant.” Kevin Durant simply didn’t have his shooting touch from the tip, concluded the loss with 26 points on 8-of-24 shooting from the field and 2-of-8 from 3-point range.

“Just the bad starts. That’s just good momentum for them. Tonight, I think I took too many shots to start the game. I think I took too many shots in the first half which kinda threw my team off a bit trying to find my rhythm,” said Durant. “I felt like I got away from the offensive game plan a little bit and I think that might have hurt us more than anything.”

James Harden had 19 points on 5-of-14 shooting overall and 2-of-7 from deep. The guard grabbed four rebounds and dished eight assists as well in his 33 minutes of play but didn’t come close to his output the last three games when he averaged a 30+ point triple-double.

“We’re not hanging our hats on the defensive end. Our offense is making it more difficult just because we aren’t getting as many stops as we need to defensively. That’s the game right there,” said Harden on the three-game losing streak. “I think earlier, we were focused on defense, getting stops and that made our offense that much easier. We haven’t been doing that as of late and we’ve been struggling.”

It wasn't just the stars who couldn’t get their shots to fall. Patty Mills’ recent shooting woes lingered into Monday’s game, going 0-of-6 from the field and 0-of-5 from three, ending with a scoreless performance.

One of the few bright spots was Nic Claxton and his ascending play. The Nets big racked up his 11 points, three rebounds and one assist in 25 minutes. He shot 3-of-4 from the field and went a newly consistent 5-of-6 from the foul line. Over the past seven games, Claxton is averaging 13.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.9 blocks while shooting 72.4 percent overall and 71.4 from the line. Despite his early season illness, the 22-year-old is averaging nearly nine points a game in 2021-22. He’s reached double figures in four straight games and six of the last seven.

The most glaring factor in the loss was the rebounding. The Nets, who know their Achilles heel is rebounding, were outreboarded, 61-33, and 23-8 on the offensive glass. The team knows the rebounding woes have had continuing impacts on their offense and their defense — an area of the floor Nash believes is the most important.

“We addressed it before the game. We know that’s something we have to face every single day as a team,” said Nash on the rebounding woes. “It’s twofold. We’re a defensive team, believe it or not. Like it or not, we win with our defense. The defense struggles when you don’t make shots and give them 24 offensive rebounds, they have a shot discrepancy of 20ish give or take depending on some free throws. That puts a lot of pressure on your defense. We know that can be an Achilles heel for us. We’re not a serious team until we address it. It was another lesson for us tonight.”

The Nets started their 15th different lineup of the season — Harden, Mills, Bembry, Durant and Claxton for Monday night’s game.

Brooklyn got off to a sluggish start in the opening minutes but one sequence got the crowd in it and the wheels rolling. After a sloppy pass from Harden, Durant tracked down Desmond Bane on the fast break for a thrilling chase-down block. On the other end, Harden hit his second three to cut the early deficit to five points with 6:22 left.

The physical Grizzlies ballooned their lead to 11, but the Nets quickly trimmed it to three off a series of transition buckets with 4:04 remaining. Memphis remained in front after one with a five-point lead (29-24), scoring 12 of their 29 points on second-chance scoring opportunities.

Brooklyn continued to play from behind in the second. To make things worse, it wasn’t the quarter Durant was hoping for — shooting 0-of-6 from the field and 0-of-2 from 3-point range in the frame. The Nets couldn’t string together a series of buckets, stemming from their lack of shooting. The team also struggled to also find consistent stops defensively and capitalize off the Grizzlies turnovers.

Ironically, Griffin sparked Brooklyn’s offense with a pair of threes off the bench, followed by two finishes at the rim by Brown and Harden that trimmed the deficit to three with two minutes left. That was the closest the Nets got. Brooklyn couldn’t contain Mane and Ja Morant, who combined for 28 points to help the Grizzlies close out the half with a 56-47 lead.

It got a lot worse in the third. How bad?? This bad!!

Brooklyn simply couldn’t pick up defensive stops and struggled to grab rebounds, being outrebounded on the offensive glass, 20-6, through three quarters. The Nets couldn’t get their spacing aligned and shot 24 percent from three by the time the buzzer sounded.

Meanwhile, Memphis didn’t shoot well from 3-point range as well but Morant, who was up to 33 points hitting the fourth quarter continued to expose Brooklyn’s interior defense, driving to the basket with little resistance. His play propelled the Grizzlies’ 25-6 run spanning six and a half minutes to take a 25-point lead (96-73) into the final 12 minutes of play.

The young legs ultimately delivered for the Nets. After Memphis increased their lead to 27, Brooklyn went with Jevon Carter, Cam Thomas, David Duke Jr., Bruce Brown and Day’Ron Sharpe with a little over nine minutes remaining and quickly chopped the deficit to only 12 points with 5:41 remaining.

The young legs did their best but couldn’t get over the heavy hump, losing by 14 and hitting the locker room with their third-straight loss.

Grizzlies get snarky

Most team social media accounts have a low-key if competitive edge. But the Grizzlies are known for their edge. They lived up to their reputation...

As Morant tweeted post-game...

Antonio Brown welcomed at Barclays Center

Among those sitting courtside was NFL receiver Antonio Brown, who after a bizarre exit from the Jets-Buccaneers game Sunday at the Meadowlands, was released by Tampa Bay. Brown was shown on the YES broadcast dressed in a black, blue and white Balenciaga track suit, sunglasses and a Nets-branded face mask. No word on who arranged for the courtside seats. He declined comment when the Post asked about his night out.

On Sunday, Brown stripped off his Bucs jersey and pads on the sidelines and jogged around the field at MetLife Stadium mid-game. Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians told the media Brown is “no longer a Buc.”

Sunday’s incident at the Meadowlands was just the latest in a number of issues that have bedeviled the Bucs, most recently a three-game suspension for falsifying a COVID vaccine card,

As Sponge Bob might say...

What’s next

Indiana Pacers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The Nets will be back in action on Wednesday when the team travels to Indiana to play the Pacers. The game is scheduled to tip at 7:30 p.m. ET. Although Steve Nash said the team hasn’t finalized a decision whether Kyrie Irving's season debut will take place Wednesday against the Pacers, it sure looks likely ... this likely.

“We’re hopeful but no determinations have been made yet,” said Nash. “We’ll see how he does between now and then.” The Nets are required to post an injury update 24 hours before a game. So by Tuesday afternoon, we should know by then if Irving is out, questionable, probable or available.

For a different perspective on Monday night’s game, check out Grizzly Bear Blues — our sister site covering the Grizzlies.