Decimated. Then defeated.
Brooklyn’s vaunted depth got put to the test, with Spencer Dinwiddie lost to a torn ACL and stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving sitting on the second night of a back-to-back. And the shorthanded Nets came up short, with a 116-111 overtime loss to previously winless Memphis.
While Ja Morant was forced from the game with a foot injury — X-rays were negative, according to ESPN — the Grizzlies didn’t need him. Caris LeVert, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Taurean Prince stepped into the lineup for the Nets, and LeVert and Luwawu-Cabarrot excelled. But it wasn’t enough.
LeVert, who had been thriving in a sixth-man role, ran the point and finished with a game-high tying 28 points and 11 assists. But he missed a potential winner in regulation that sent the game to overtime, where Brooklyn went ice cold.
The Nets shot 2 of 12 with four turnovers in the extra period.
After an efficient outing Sunday in Charlotte, coach Steve Nash rewarded Luwawu-Cabarrot with a start against Memphis. The young French wing responded with 21 points. But after a 19-point first half that was the highest-scoring of his career, he had just two after the break.
A Nets turnover right out of the gate in overtime led to a Jonas Valanciunas dunk. They went 0-for-5 with two turnovers before they got a steal and breakaway dunk from LeVert to knot it.
Tyus Jones untied it to give Memphis a 110-108 edge, but LeVert’s 3-pointer put the Nets back ahead. And when LeVert gave up his body to draw a charge on Kyle Anderson (28 points), the Nets had the ball and the lead with under a minute remaining.
Brandon Clarke’s tip-in made it 112-111 Memphis, and a DeAndre Jordan bucket on the other end was waved off for offensive interference. The Nets forced a miss but Jeff Green’s foul — which Nash unsuccessfully challenged — gave Memphis another chance at a dagger.
Grayson Allen’s free throw left the Nets down two with 8.1 seconds left, and Joe Harris’ missed 3 left them little chance. Anderson iced it at the line.
The Nets fell to 2-2, while Memphis is 1-2.
Brooklyn fell behind 20-9 right out of the gate, with Prince missing his first five shots, while struggling to slow Anderson, who had 10 quick points.
The deficit hit a dozen before the Nets showed any signs of life. After Harris felt he got fouled on a contested layup attempt and was called for a rare technical, a free throw by Dillon Brooks (24 points) left Brooklyn down 42-30 with 8:08 left in the second quarter.
But the Nets finally found their footing and closed the half on a 25-12 run, hitting 9 of 14 from the floor and holding Memphis to 4 of 15.
The run saw Morant forced from the game with 2:43 remaining in the second quarter. The Grizzlies star fouled Luwawu-Cabarrot and immediately hopped off the court onto the sidelines, never putting any pressure on his left foot. He was examined by the training staff who placed him in a wheelchair and took him into the locker room. He didn’t return.
Still, the Brooklyn run started before the Morant injury, and continued after it. Luwawu-Cabarrot’s ensuing free throws cut the deficit to 51-47, and LeVert asserted himself late. His basket knotted it at 51-all, and his pull-up in the lane beat the buzzer to send Brooklyn into the locker room ahead 55-54.
The second half was a seesaw affair.
Memphis edged ahead 75-70 before the Nets retook the lead on consecutive buckets by LeVert and a layup by Landry Shamet.
Brooklyn fell back behind 87-80 on a bucket by Clarke, but clawed back in front again. The Nets took a 99-98 lead on Jordan’s tip-in with 4:52 left. And even after Clarke’s layup gave the lead back to Memphis, LeVert’s bucket made it 101-100. The teams traded shots from there.
LeVert’s free throws gave Brooklyn a 103-102 lead with 2:06 remaining, and his 3-pointer made it 106-104 with 1:44 to play. Valanciunas knotted it at the line, but Luwawu-Cabarrot came up with a huge steal with just 25 seconds left in regulation. A LeVert miss ensured it went into OT.
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