MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Kyrie Irving news won the day. But the Nets lost on the night, 132-120 to the Grizzlies in front of a sold-out crowd of 17,794 at FedExForum.
Hours after news broke that Irving will soon be cleared to start playing on home soil at Barclays Center, he scored 43 points while Kevin Durant added 35 with 11 rebounds and eight assists. But that still wasn’t enough to overcome their shoddy defense against the Grizzlies.
The Nets led 107-105 on an Irving bucket, but allowed an 18-2 run to lose control and the game.
Brooklyn (38-35) is stuck in eighth place in the Eastern Conference and mired in the play-in tournament. The Nets fell 2 ½ games behind seventh-place Toronto and 3 ½ behind Cleveland for the sixth and final guaranteed playoff spot.
The Grizzlies were without Ja Morant, the electrifying All-Star guard who missed a second straight game with right knee pain. But Memphis improved to 15-2 without its franchise player, winning with physicality, athleticism and attitude. All were exposed, along with 23 points from Desmond Bane.
The Nets had won six of their last seven, with the only snag being last Wednesday’s two-point heartbreaker after blowing a 14-point cushion against Dallas. This time they dug a huge hole and tried to climb out, falling narrowly.
Trailing 37-32 after Durant’s free throw with 31.3 seconds left in the first quarter, they trailed by 10 on Brandon Clarke’s tip early in the second.
A 3-pointer from Bane left the Nets down 50-36 with 9:15 remaining in the half, and the deficit swelled to 18 midway through the second quarter.
The Nets trailed 63-45 after a Dillon Brooks drive-thru floater, getting physically pushed around.
It was 76-62 at the break before the Nets started to come back to it.
Brooklyn outscored the Grizzlies 42-27 in the third quarter. Durant (14) and Irving (11) combined for 25 points in the period, with Irving finding Bruce Brown for a layup to put the Nets ahead 104-103 with 2.4 seconds left.
An Irving 3-pointer 31 seconds into the fourth quarter gave the Nets a 107-105 lead. But that was the last lead they would have.
A tip from Clarke tied it, and Bane found De’Anthony Melton (team best tying 23) for a 3-pointer that untied him.
Bane’s 3 straight points put Memphis ahead 123-109 with 5:20 remaining, and the Nets never challenged after that.
New York Post