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Depleted Nets defeat Grizzlies, halt three-game skid

Nets forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson holds his right leg

Nets forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson holds his right leg after falling to the floor against the Grizzlies on Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. Credit: AP / Brandon Dill

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The war of attrition continued for the Nets as they lost two more starters, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Allen Crabbe, to injuries. But they overcame those setbacks plus their recent late-game meltdowns to score a 98-88 victory over Memphis on Sunday night at FedEx Forum.

The Nets led by 19 points late in the third quarter, but the Grizzlies put together a 20-6 run to move within 82-77 early in the fourth. Suddenly, the Nets’ recent struggles to hold late leads came to the fore again. But they regained a 93-82 cushion with an 11-5 burst, including nine points from Trevor Booker.

“It felt really good,” Booker said. “They tried to make a run to come back and make it a game, but we did a great job of standing our ground and fighting out to the end.”

The Nets (7-12) snapped a three-game losing streak at the expense of the Grizzlies (7-12), who lost their eighth straight. DeMarre Carroll scored 24 points, Booker had 16 points and 11 rebounds and Joe Harris added 13 points for the Nets. Marc Gasol and Tyreke Evans had 18 points each for Memphis.

The Nets’ task grew more difficult before the game when shooting guard Crabbe was scratched from the starting lineup with a sore lower back. Then starting center Tyler Zeller picked up three fouls in less than four minutes and sat for the remainder of the first half.

The Grizzlies took an early eight-point lead, but the Nets battled back despite losing Hollis-Jefferson. He landed awkwardly on a drive to the basket but was able to walk slowly off the court with a sprained right ankle with 8:16 left in the second period.

Hollis-Jefferson tried to give it a go at halftime but couldn’t do it. He and Crabbe are day-to-day as the Nets head to Houston to face the Rockets on Monday night.

Given their injury situation and recent troubles holding fourth-quarter leads, beating the Grizzlies provided relief for the Nets.

“Very important, especially with the amount of injuries that we had,” Booker said. “It gives us something to cheer about and be joyful about, and hopefully we can get some bodies back [Monday].”

The score was tied at 47 at halftime, but the Nets opened the third quarter on a 20-4 run, including seven points from Dinwiddie, for a 67-51 lead.

“I thought it was night and day between the first half and second half,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “We picked our energy up in the second half. The first part of the third quarter, I thought that’s where the game turned.”

Grizzlies center Gasol had 16 of his 18 points in the first half, but the Nets’ Tyler Zeller and Timofey Mozgov did such a good defensive job on him that Memphis coach David Fizdale benched him the entire fourth quarter.

“When you play Memphis, you have to guard this big guy,” Atkinson said. “You saw in the beginning of the game, we really struggled to guard him. Great job by Timmy and Tyler to control him a little.”

With Hollis-Jefferson on the bench, Carroll had to move to power forward, and when the game got close in the fourth quarter, Booker came in to play center.

“ ‘TBook’ is one of those guys that is going to come out and give you everything they’ve got,” Carroll said. “I think that’s what he did tonight . . . I thought we really wanted this one. We almost looked at this as like a must-win. We didn’t want to go to Houston losing another close game.”

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