Nets extremely short handed again vs. Grizzlies

NBA

The last time the Brooklyn Nets faced the Memphis Grizzlies, stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were rested.

It is expected to look similar when the Nets head to Memphis on Friday night, with Brooklyn knowing it will be without the All-Star duo again.

In a Dec. 28 game, the Nets rested Irving and Durant for the first time and took a 116-111 overtime loss to Memphis. That game was the back end of Brooklyn’s first back-to-back set.

This time, Durant will miss his third game due to COVID-19 safety protocols, although he could return for Sunday’s home game against Oklahoma City.

Irving missed Thursday’s game for personal reasons, sitting out the team’s 122-109 win over the Philadelphia 76ers. He will not be with the team Friday either.

After the Nets led most of Thursday’s game, head coach Steve Nash said he had not heard from Irving. Caris LeVert said Irving texted his teammates before the opening tip.

With Irving’s status unclear, the Nets are coming off their most impressive wins of the season. They followeda dominating 130-96 rout Tuesday over the Utah Jazz by leading most of the way Thursday and getting strong showings from Joe Harris, LeVert, and Jarrett Allen, similar to how they did in the Orlando bubble over the summer.

Harris scored a season-high 28 points while tying a season high with six 3-pointers and LeVert posted a double-double with 22 points and 10 assists. Allen produced 15 points and 11 rebounds for his third straight double-double while holding his own against Joel Embiid after containing Rudy Gobert on Tuesday.

“Obviously it’s a totally different team when those guys are out here,” LeVert said of Durant and Irving. “But I think we’ve done a great job of having the next man up mentality, guys stepping into those roles and filling what we need as a team and that will be important for us all year.”

The Grizzlies can relate to being shorthanded. They have been without Ja Morant since the second quarter of their Dec. 28 visit to Brooklyn.

Morant injured his left ankle and was diagnosed with a Grade 2 sprain. Morant’s timetable is three to five weeks and the Grizzlies are now 1-4 without him.

Memphis absorbed double-digit losses to Boston and the Los Angeles Lakers in their first two defeats without Morant but lost the last two games by a combined six points. After falling 94-92 loss to Los Angeles on Tuesday, the Grizzlies dropped a 94-90 decision to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night to fall to 0-5 at home.

Jonas Valanciunas led the Grizzlies with 17 points and 10 rebounds against the Cavaliers, but Kyle Anderson and Dillon Brooks continued their recent struggles.

Anderson scored a career-high 28 points in the last meeting with Brooklyn but is shooting 38 percent (25 of 67) in his last five games.

Brooks scored a season-high 24 points in the last meeting against the Nets and had 21 points last Friday at Charlotte but is shooting 29.3 percent (12 of 41) in his last three games.

“They’ve got to play better, the entire team has to play better,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said of his starters. “We obviously expect them to play better than they have for the last couple of games. We got faith in them to figure it out. Hopefully, the last couple of games are a reminder that we got to look at ourselves and find ways to play better.”

–Field Level Media

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