Nets take much-needed win over shorthanded Grizzlies
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- He wasn't fueled solely by the friends and family he had in the crowd, the ones who made the trek across the mighty Mississippi River from his native Arkansas.
Joe Johnson had another reason to play with a little more juice and gusto Saturday night: pride.
"I just wanted to come out, man, and be aggressive on both ends of the floor," Johnson said after the Nets beat the Grizzlies, 97-88, "and bring that energy and effort that we needed, and that our coach said that we didn't have last night. So tonight wasn't no excuse."
Without a doubt, the Nets played with much more heart and emotion, apparently receiving the message coach Jason Kidd delivered Friday night, when he benched four-fifths of the starting lineup for the entire second half. Johnson got them going with a 16-point first quarter and they rode the coattails of Brook Lopez down the stretch to knock off the Grizzlies at FedEx Forum.
The Nets (5-12), who never trailed, needed this one for their psyche, if nothing else. They beat an opponent on the road for only the third time in 11 tries behind Johnson's 26 points, Andray Blatche's 21 and Lopez's 20.
"When we sit out the whole second half, I took it personal myself," said Blatche, who had a career-high three three-pointers. "So I wanted to try to come out and redeem myself."
Lopez was a beast in the fourth quarter, particularly in the closing minutes, and took advantage of Memphis' shorthanded front line (the Grizzlies were missing Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol).
Although Mirza Teletovic went on his own five-point run to push the Nets' lead to 80-74 with 9:41 remaining, it was the 7-foot Lopez who really helped keep the Grizzlies (8-8) -- who were led by Quincy Pondexter's 22 points off the bench -- at bay.
Lopez scored 12 points in the fourth quarter, shooting 4-for-6 from the field and 4-for-7 from the free-throw line.
"It's great going down the stretch, understanding how to play with Brook," Kidd said. "But I thought the way we set the tone of getting Joe and Dray established early and understanding Joe's tying to step up, and he did that tonight."
That tense vibe that was prevalent during the Nets' stretch of brutal losses had lifted and music was pumping loudly in the Nets' locker room after this one. Albeit temporarily, they pulled a hefty monkey off their backs.
"Confidence is everything," Kevin Garnett said. "Every win we can get right now is a big one. I thought we got better tonight. I thought we kept our poise in that second half when they made a run on us. But most importantly, we stayed in there. I thought Brook had a great game. He and Joe Johnson was huge for us tonight and I thought everybody else played their roles perfectly."
But the most pressing question now is this: Can the Nets win consecutive games for the first time this season? Maybe playing 13 of their next 19 games at home will help after they started off with 11 of 17 on the road.
"We didn't accomplish nothing," Blatche said. "This is just one win. Right now, we are still in the hole. We've still got to continue to fight . . . It feels good to go home with a win. It'll feel even better if we can start a streak."