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Nets fall to Memphis, take three-game losing streak into All-Star break

Brooklyn Nets forward Joe Johnson shoots between Memphis

Brooklyn Nets forward Joe Johnson shoots between Memphis Grizzlies forward Jeff Green and guard Mike Conley while Grizzlies center Marc Gasol battles for position against Nets forward Kevin Garnett in the first half of a game Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015, in Memphis, Tenn. Credit: AP / Brandon Dill

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - He came to a fork and wasn't quite sure which direction to turn, stopping in his tracks along with general manager Billy King and Deron Williams before asking for help from whoever was around and listening.

"Which way," Lionel Hollins inquired, "is the locker room?"

Hollins had been in that area of FedEx Forum only once, going back to his days as an assistant under Scott Skiles in Milwaukee in 2008-09. So the Nets coach could be excused for needing a GPS to navigate his way into the cramped visitors' quarters.

Most of his best memories came on the other side of the affectionately known Grindhouse, but he would've liked to create some new ones as an enemy in a sense. A completely happy homecoming wasn't in the cards, though.

"They gave him a great tribute," Joe Johnson said after the Nets weren't able to climb out of a 20-point third-quarter hole and lost to the Grizzlies, 95-86. "And I wish we could have performed better at a higher level, man, to where this could have been a close-out game going into the All-Star break."

Instead, the Nets (21-31) enter this span of nine days off riding a three-game losing streak, still creating questions about this collection of players, probably wondering if the roster will look the same when the team reconvenes in Los Angeles just before the Feb. 19 trade deadline.

Getting away might be the best thing for them at the moment considering how they turned over the ball against Memphis (39-13), throwing it away 20 times to help fuel a Grizzlies' offense that got 19 points and eight rebounds from Zach Randolph and 14 points and 11 rebounds from Marc Gasol.

"I think so," Kevin Garnett said. "I think time away from each other to rejuvenate to recharge, kind of hit the reset button a little bit, come back inspired is important. I think for the most part, it's been a tough schedule. So, I think throughout the league, the break comes at a good time."

This one was emotional from the get-go thanks to the touching video tribute that played on the jumbotron before the opening tip. Many in the crowd of 16,901 bellowed with glee when the Grizzlies' public-address announcer hailed Hollins' return, introducing him as a spotlight shined directly on him.

Hollins soaked it all up, managing to keep his eyes dry even though hours earlier, he admitted he would probably shed a tear or two.

"It was great," Hollins said. "I enjoyed it from a standpoint of the respect that they showed and the adoration for the work that I've done here, but it was about trying to win a game more than that. I appreciated it all, but I wanted to win."

With this highly-anticipated event behind him, a day in which he was able to drive his own car and sleep in his own bed for once, Hollins can truly put this all to rest. But he insists he already had done that.

"I had closure when I was gone," Hollins said. "When I sat out that year, I had closure. I sat out a whole year and I watched a lot of their games. . . . It was over. I guess for the fans it might be closure and now if I come to town, I can get booed like everyone else. Tonight was a moment of admiration."

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