Kevin Durant on custom Nets Republic graphic

Nets vs. Grizzlies Recap: Memphis Overpowers Brooklyn in High-Scoring Affair

Coming off a win against Toronto on Friday, the Nets started their road trip in Memphis to take on the Grizzlies on Monday. Ultimately, the Nets couldn’t put together two complete halves, losing to the Grizzlies, 134-124, to fall to 1-2 on the season.

The Nets continued their solid offensive play from Friday and shot well from the floor to start the game. However, the game gave an early feeling of a shootout, as Memphis did not seem to miss from the floor either. As usual, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving put the offense on their backs as they combined for 21 of the Nets’ 34 first-quarter points.

The second quarter is where the game swung into the Nets’ favor.

In what was a solid first half of play, the Nets continued to build momentum. The ball movement was crisp, and the defense looked to hold its own. On the offensive end, the Nets shot an impressive 70% from the field, scoring 35 points in the quarter. Defensively, Brooklyn put Memphis in tough positions to allow just 25 points on 32% shooting. Brooklyn, led by Durant and Irving, led at halftime, 69-64.

The second half was a different story, however, particularly in the third quarter. A disaster quarter on defense that featured slow and late rotations left wide open shooters and let Grizzlies shooting specialist Desmond Bane get hot. The offense also struggled to get anything going with low quality shots. Durant kept the Nets afloat, though, as he shot 7-of-8 from the field for 17 points to keep the Nets within striking distance. Still, the Nets were outscored by 17 points in the quarter, trailing 109-97 leading into the fourth.

Though the Nets narrowed the deficit in the fourth quarter, Bane and Ja Morant had high-scoring nights of their own to keep Brooklyn at bay. Irving put on a dazzling display en route to 21 points for the quarter. However, the Nets could not stop Memphis’ offense as it dealt with foul trouble, and Ben Simmons fouling out. Morant’s late three-point shot was the dagger.

Officiating, Defensive Woes

A number of things went wrong for the Nets in the loss, with one of the biggest complaints from players and fans alike focusing on officiating. The Nets attempted to match the Grizzlies’ physicality but were not rewarded as such with the whistle. One such poor call was the one that put Simmons on the bench for good.

However, officiating is not what caused the Nets to lose. Though there was not a huge rebound disparity (Memphis had the 38-35 edge), the Nets’ slow and late rotations are what doomed them. This could be attributed to poor communication, as there was confusion when it came to switching or not switching. This led to leaving shooters– especially Bane, who went off for a career-high 38 points–hitting wide open three-pointers.

That’s what doomed the Nets, as Memphis shot 47.1% from deep compared to the Nets’ 31%. If the Nets are to improve, they need to clean up their defense and communicate clearly. The tools and personnel are there to accomplish a solid defense, it is just a matter of effort, talking and time to make it happen.

Long-Term Thinking

Though it is frustrating to see early, Steve Nash stressed post-game that it will take time for the players to build continuity and chemistry on the court. There were positives, such as great ball movement, in the first half.

With the Nets working to put the pieces together, the team is also awaiting to add Seth Curry and talented wing TJ Warren into the rotation, both of whom are coming off injuries. Adding those two players off the bench should be a boon for Brooklyn.

This patience should also apply to Simmons. Though his play has been frustrating as of late, ultimately fouling out in two of the Nets’ first three games, Simmons still needs time to work his way back into form. There are instances where he looks extremely passive, but some where he gets aggressive. Simmons needs to find his groove as much as the Nets do.

Next Stop

The Nets travel to their last stop on their short road trip, which will be in Wisconsin. This will be another good test to see if Durant, Irving and Simmons can lead the Nets in a star-studded battle against Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday and the Bucks. The game will tip-off at 7:30 p.m. ET on YES Network and ESPN on Wednesday.