Nets vs. Grizzlies: Brooklyn Heads to Memphis After Going Deep for Wins

Nets coming off win over Sixers led by LeVert and Harris

The Brooklyn Nets have had their depth tested this week, and they’ve answered the challenge with consecutive wins over Utah and Philadelphia going into Friday night’s game in Memphis.

After reshuffling the starting lineup and rotations without Kevin Durant against the Jazz, Nets head coach Steve Nash found his team without Kyrie Irving and Tyler Johnson as well against the Sixers.

“I think we’re such a, I keep saying, we’re so young as far as our time together, and so fresh and so new, that each day is an opportunity for us to get to know each other better, to get better collectively, and so I don’t know that it sends a message,” said Nash after the win against Philadelphia. “The message is for the whole group that when we play connected and we have that fighting spirit we give ourselves a great chance every night, no matter who’s available. Just proud of the guys for continuing to push the envelope there. They played well start to finish, did so many things well, but the most important thing is just the way they approached the game, their spirit and their collectivity. This is a tough league, but if you bring that every night, you’ve got a chance no matter who you play.”

After starting 155 straight games since late in the 2017-18 season, Joe Harris has come off the bench the last two games, and Thursday night he led the Nets with a season-high 28 points while making 6-of-9 3-pointers.

“Joe’s a stud. He’s an NBA starter,” said Nash. “We’re just experimenting. Kevin out with a quarantine, mixing it up, looking at different lineups, seeing different people play together. Joe Harris is outstanding. He’s going to play a lot of minutes every night, whether he starts or doesn’t start. Right now, we’re having a look at this machination of our team, and I’m sure we’ll look at a lot of others. As you’ve seen, Kevin’s got a quarantine, Tyler Johnson’s got a quarantine, we’ve already lost Spencer (Dinwiddie). So lots of things are going to happen. We’re going to see lots of different lineups. When it is so new to everyone, I think now’s the time to try some of these things, have a look at different lineups. Simply, that’s all it is.”

BALL MOVEMENT

The Nets had 31 assists against Utah and 30 against Philadelphia this week.

“I feel like we did a great job moving the ball,” said Caris LeVert. “I don’t really feel like that has anything to do with those guys (Irving and Durant) though. I think tonight we’re kind of more used to playing with each other. Those guys have played with each other for a while now so we kind of know things a little bit better. So, the ball moved a little bit better tonight and hopefully we can keep that up tomorrow against the Grizzlies.”

LeVert had 10 assists while making his second start of the season, and the Nets were plus-23 with him on the floor against the Sixers. In his two starts this season, LeVert is averaging 25.0 points and 10.5 assists.

“I think that, obviously, the two games I’ve started Kevin and Ky haven’t played so there’s more opportunity out there,” said LeVert. “More shots, just more touches. That definitely has a big part of it. And then, you, know, the season just started. I feel like myself along with other guys are still finding our rhythm out there, and it will get better as the season continues for sure.”

BACK ON THE BOARDS

Rebounding was an issue for Brooklyn during a stretch in which the Nets lost four of five, particularly giving up offensive rebounds and second-chance points. But in back-to-back games against two teams ranked in the top five in the NBA in rebounding percentage — and featuring two of the top five individual rebounders in Utah’s Rudy Gobert and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid — the Nets outrebounded both in a pair of wins.

Jarrett Allen has double-figure rebounds in seven of Brooklyn’s nine games this season, and he and DeAndre Jordan both had 11 rebounds each in Thursday’s win over the Sixers.

“The rebounding is going to be a collective effort,” said Steve Nash. “It was fantastic again, and we’ve got to continue that. That's got to be something that we're on guard and watching over all year and taking pride in and gang rebounding. So it's great to see it, but this isn't like we're solved, we’re a great rebounding team. That's something we’ve got to prove every night the rest of the year.”

DURANT POSSIBLE FOR SUNDAY

While Kevin Durant will miss his third straight game due to health and safety protocols when the Nets play Memphis on Friday, Steve Nash said before Thursday’s game against Philadelphia that it was possible he would return against Oklahoma City on Sunday.

“I think Kevin’s situation is that if he continues to test negative he can play Sunday,” said Nash. “That’s all I have on that. But hopefully, can’t wait for Sunday to come.”

Tyler Johnson also missed Thursday’s game due to health and safety protocols, though Nash said he had not tested positive for the coronavirus. Kyrie Irving missed Thursday’s game for personal reasons.

ABOUT THE GRIZZLIES

Memphis is without Ja Morant, who injured his ankle in the overtime win in Brooklyn on Dec. 28, and the Grizzlies are 1-4 since and 2-6 overall. Jaren Jackson Jr. and Justise Winslow have yet to play for the Grizzlies this season. Memphis is 26th in both field goal percentage (43.9) and 3-point percentage (33.0), and Grizzlies aren’t getting extra points at the line either, ranking 30th in both free throws made and attempts. With Morant out, Dillon Brooks has been the top scorer, averaging 16.9 points per game. In the 116-111 win in Brooklyn, Brooks scored 24 points, Kyle Anderson had 28, and Jonas Valanciunas scored 14 with 14 rebounds.

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