Nets vs Grizzlies Recap: Grizzlies Mangle Nets in Embarrassing Fashion

The Brooklyn Nets were looking to end their two-game losing streak and get out of a slump. After the embarrassing fiasco that was the fourth quarter of the Clippers game, the Nets hoped Monday’s matchup versus the Grizzlies would fair better. Instead, the embarrassment from New Year’s carried over into the Monday blues. The Brooklyn Nets started slow and never recovered, nor showed enough effort to put them over the edge. On top of that, poor shooting, poor defense, poor rebounding combined to spell a loss in Brooklyn. Even after a spirited fourth quarter come back from the kids who came in too late, more on that later, the Nets lost their third straight game in wire-to-wire fashion, 118-104.

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The first quarter brought about another slow start, something that has been common in Nets games. The Grizzlies raced out to an early 11 point lead. However, superstars Kevin Durant and James Harden steadied the ship, helping bring the Nets back into the game, with the score being 29-24. However, the name of the first quarter was the seven turnovers and four quick fouls. Also, the Grizzlies took a quick advantage on the glass, outrebounding the Nets 17-6.

The shooting struggles started to show into the second quarter. Overall the team shot 36 percent, and it was evident when the usual bucket getters, Durant and Patty Mills could not get a single shot to fall. Harden and high-energy play from Claxton helped stabilize Brooklyn. Still, the silly fouls continued, and the Grizzlies continued to own the boards, outrebounding 16-10. The Nets would take an eight point deficit into halftime.

The third quarter had a promising start to it. Led by the energetic hustle from Deandre Bembry, the Nets trimmed a 12-point Grizzlies lead to a 64-58 deficit. However, after that, everything went downhill in Brooklyn. The Nets went absolutely cold, shooting 35 percent, and 11 percent from three in the quarter. The Nets couldn’t fight for rebounds and let Grizzlies superstar Ja Morant have his way. The Grizzlies outscored the Nets 40-26 in the quarter and the game was blown open to a score of 96-73.

The fourth quarter saw the rookies come off the bench, and all the veterans sat. The kids were the sparks the Nets needed. Led by Cam Thomas, the “stay-ready” group brought Brooklyn right back in the game, bringing the deficit to within 10. However, the comeback effort was too little, too late, as Ja Morant and Desmond Bane hit dagger shots to end the game.

Effort An Issue Again

The biggest issue from the Clippers loss carried over into tonight’s loss as well. Yet again, the effort seemed to be in question. The defensive effort seemed non-existent. Ja Morant was able to blow by and get into the paint with ease en route to 36 points. The poor defensive effort was also clear in slow rotations and poor close-outs on shooters. Grizzlies shooter Desmond Bane was able to get multiple clean looks at the basket to help add 29 points to the Grizzlies score total. The Nets also got outrebounded by the Grizzlies 61-33. Combined, this is not a recipe for successful basketball.

However, this is something that can be worked on, and the Nets know that. During the post-game presser, we’ve seen head coach Steve Nash and James Harden talk about the need to improve. Like I mentioned in the Clippers recap, this is a long season, and there is time to improve this. The Nets were playing like a top-five defense for a majority of the season, and they can get back there.

Rotation Issues

Another issue that plagued tonight, and has also been a subtle problem throughout this season, has been the Nets rotation. Tonight’s rotation from Nash was confusing, to say the least. Nash only employed a small eight-man rotation, letting none of the rookies touch the floor until the fourth quarter. Normally, this small-sized rotation is seen during the playoffs, not a January regular-season game. Kevin Durant, James Harden, Patty Mills, Deandre Bembry, and Nic Claxton started tonight, with James Johnson, Bruce Brown, and Blake Griffin coming off the bench.

It is understandable to play the veterans to help provide high-IQ, efficient basketball. However, on nights like tonight, and what has happened the two games prior, when the vets are struggling, why not put in the young guys? We have seen what the rookies in Cam Thomas, Kessler Edwards, David Duke Jr, can do and the skillsets they provide. With players like Bruce Brown and Blake Griffin struggling, why not put Cam Thomas and Kessler Edwards, who definitely have earned minutes, into the game to try and reinvigorate the squad.

On top of that, we’ve seen what happens when James Harden and Kevin Durant are surrounded by non-shooting lineups. Defensive specialists Bruce Brown, Deandre Bembry, and James Johnson have their unique skillsets to help the team, but all together on the floor has proven not ideal. To help the shooters Durant, Harden, and Mills, it might be good to see Cam Thomas, who can create his own shot, and Kessler Edwards, a 3-and-D player on the floor.

In fairness, lineups are constantly in flux, especially given the previous COVID outbreak and injuries to the team. However, lineups, or at the very least the players who are guaranteed to be in the rotation, should be known. The Nets have seen what they’re getting with each player they have played, as well as what works and what does not. Thankfully to aid with this, key players in superstar Kyrie Irving and sharpshooter Joe Harris returning soon should help stabilize the rotation moving forward.

Looking Forward

As previously said, even with this terrible loss, it is not a cause for panic. Brooklyn is in a slump, and sometimes those happen. The Nets have dealt with adversity before, and they will bounce back. It is a long season and there is time to figure things out.

Thankfully, superstar Kyrie Irving will reportedly return in Brooklyn’s next game against Indiana. Irving’s return after a 35 game absence will be a huge boost for Brooklyn. Then soon enough, Joe Harris will soon return from ankle surgery. A healthy Nets team is a force to be reckoned with, and fans will need to be patient and think big picture and long term. The Nets will continue competing for the title and will use the regular season as a cautious process and to prepare for that title push. Special things like this will take time.

The Nets will travel to Indiana to play the struggling Indiana Pacers. As mentioned previously, this will be Kyrie Irving’s first game of the season. The game will take place on Wednesday, January 5, with tip-off at 7:30 PM EST. Currently, the Brooklyn Nets are 23-12 and the second seed in the Eastern Conference. They are two games behind the first place Chicago Bulls.

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