Caris LeVert scored 43 points, 19 in the third quarter, and the Nets wiped out a 22-point first-half deficit. But after taking a two-point lead with 4:36 to play, they fell apart down the stretch as the Grizzlies secured a 115-110 victory Friday night at FedEx Forum in Memphis.
Memphis closed the game with a 13-6 run.
After erasing a 62-47 halftime deficit and temporarily taking the lead in the third period, the Nets trailed 100-93 with 7:25 left when LeVert returned to the game. He immediately sparked an 11-2 run that included a pair of three-pointers by Landry Shamet for a 104-102 lead at the 4:36 mark.
But that was as good as it got.
"The first half, we were a little flat," coach Steve Nash said. "Third quarter, though, they came out and fought, they came out with energy. Caris made some big shots, [Taurean Prince] made some big shots and we found ourselves right back in the end all the way up to four [minutes]. So I was proud of them in the second half."
LeVert shot 15-for-23, including 7-for-9 effort from three-point range. The Nets (5-5) also got 16 points from Prince but committed 21 turnovers that led to 22 Grizzlies points.
Dillon Brooks scored 24 points and Brandon Clarke added 21 for the Grizzlies (3-6), who dominated second-chance points (22-2) and fast-break points (27-11).
After leading 104-102, the Nets missed three straight shots before Joe Harris and LeVert each hit a three-pointer, but they also committed four turnovers in the final four minutes.
"I thought we just forced a couple plays, things where we could have just run the offense, stayed patient and got better looks," Nash said. "We fought all the way back with a big adrenaline rush. We just didn’t have the poise when we were up to manage that lead."
The Nets were coming off two commanding wins over the Jazz and the 76ers even though they didn’t have Kevin Durant (health and safety protocols) in either game or Kyrie Irving (personal reasons) against Philadelphia. Neither superstar was in Memphis and both teams were on the second game of a back-to-back.
After cleaning up problems with defense, rebounding and turnovers in the previous two games, the Nets reverted against a Grizzlies team that beat them in overtime Dec. 28 at Barclays but had yet to win a game on their home court in five attempts.
The Grizzlies had a one-point lead midway through their 40-point first quarter when they put together an extended 29-10 run to build a 50-30 lead midway through the second period. They pushed that to a high of 22 points late in the second, but the Nets made seven foul shots in the final minute to cut their halftime deficit to 62-47.
Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas (eight points, four rebounds), was ruled out of the second half because of health and safety protocols. Whether or not that was a contributing factor, the Nets fashioned a 26-6 run early in the third quarter that included seven points by Prince before three straight LeVert three-pointers and a three-point play by Jarrett Allen with 3:28 left in the period gave the Nets an 80-78 lead. LeVert added his fourth and fifth threes of the period, but the Grizzlies scored the final six points to regain a 92-86 lead.
Asked if there was a reason he got so hot from three-point range in the third- quarter comeback, LeVert smiled and said, "I’ve been shooting bad all season, so I feel like I was due for this game. I've been putting in a lot of work, and my shot feels good. I think it was just a matter of time."