The Nets and Grizzlies rode a wave of momentum into Barclays Center on Monday, relatively speaking. These two struggling teams had shed losing streaks Saturday — a three-game skid for the Nets and a staggering 19-game slide for Memphis.
Both were in search of their first winning streak since January, and the Nets emerged with it. Their defense kicked in during the fourth quarter and they held on for a 118-115 victory. It was the fifth time they have won two straight games.
“No matter when it comes during the season, to get two wins to build off of is a great feeling,” D’Angelo Russell said.
Caris LeVert and Allen Crabbe paced the Nets (23-48) with 22 points apiece. DeMarre Carroll scored 18 points, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added 16 points and 12 rebounds, and Russell had 14 points and seven assists.
Andrew Harrison scored 19 points and Wayne Selden Jr. had 17 for Memphis (19-51), which has lost 15 straight road games.
The Grizzlies played without their three best players, point guard Mike Conley (heel surgery), center Marc Gasol (flu-like symptoms) and guard Tyreke Evans (inactive). They also played without the heavy weight of that overall losing streak — the second-longest slide in franchise history — after beating Denver on Saturday.
“At the end of the day, for your own psyche and for the team’s psyche, you need to be rewarded every now and then with a win to validate all that hard work,” interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “So it was a great feeling to get that win.”
But they went right back to feeling bad at the end.
With Memphis leading 101-100, the Nets produced a 9-0 burst. Jarrett Allen made a move down low for a layup, Crabbe sank a three-pointer, Allen nailed two free throws and Le Vert hit a layup for a 109-101 lead with 4:07 remaining.
Selden hit a three-pointer with 25.9 seconds remaining and JaMychal Green scored inside to cut the Grizzlies’ deficit to 117-115 with 12.6 seconds left. Spencer Dinwiddie went 1-for-2 from the line one second later before Harrison’s potential tying three-pointer at the buzzer came up short.
“I think in the fourth quarter, we put up a lot more resistance,” coach Kenny Atkinson said after the Nets held Memphis to 21 points in the last 12 minutes. “We became a lot more physical.”
The Nets led by two at halftime and began to create some separation in the third quarter. Crabbe buried a three-pointer and fed Carroll for a layup to give the Nets a 79-71 advantage.
But the Grizzlies responded. Harrison scored seven points in a 23-8 run that gave Memphis a 94-87 lead after three quarters. The Nets began the fourth quarter with a 7-0 run to tie it.
“The challenge for us as a group is to do things more consistently over a longer of period of time,” Atkinson said. “Obviously, you’re playing with fire if you’re waiting to the fourth quarter to defend.”
Crabbe nears record. Crabbe made four three-pointers and has 166, three shy of Deron Williams’ single-season franchise record.