ja morant
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Monday night saw the Grizzlies hand the Nets a 118-104 defeat.

Well, the losing streak is now up to three as the Brooklyn Nets, who were previously on cruise control, have now hit a rough patch.

Memphis led from start to finish. They jumped out to a quick 12-4 lead and never looked back. Leading the charge for the Grizzlies was Ja Morant (36 points, eight assists). The young superstar was the catalyst for Memphis all night but especially in the third quarter where Morant dropped 18 points.

His dominant quarter was highlighted by a few acrobatic finishes and a monstrous dunk that had the Barclays Center buzzing. Accompanying Morant in victory was Desmond Bane who poured in 29 points and eight boards.

For the Nets, it was yet another slow start and it’s a troubling trend that has arisen over the last few games with the return of their regular rotation guys. Kevin Durant (26 points, six assists) seemed immune to the slow offensive start, at least in the first quarter as he dropped 12 points. The second quarter wasn’t as kind to Durant as he missed all six of his shot attempts and his only point came on a free throw.

Durant’s woes seemed to fade away at the start of the second half as he scored Brooklyn’s first seven points. However, it wasn’t enough to keep up with the offensive onslaught the Grizzlies were throwing out. They outscored Brooklyn 40-26 in the third period.

James Harden (19 points, eight assists) had a fairly quiet night in his own regard. The aggressiveness Harden has displayed over the past two weeks just wasn’t there as he only got to the line eight times. Aside from that none of the other Nets players did anything of note or value.

In terms of effort and hustle, the Nets were completely outclassed. Memphis obliterated Brooklyn on the boards, outrebounding them 61-33. The Grizzlies gobbled up 23 offensive rebounds resulting in 29 second-chance points. The large advantage on the glass is also why they had 20 more shot attempts than Brooklyn.

Questionable lineup decisions continue to plague head coach Steve Nash as it was yet another subpar performance from the second-year head coach. Sticking with an eight-man rotation for a majority of the game, Brooklyn struggled to find any offensive rhythm. Playing two to three non-shooters at the same time made the Brooklyn offense clunky and allowed Memphis to stay home and pack the paint.

The Nets did make it interesting in the fourth quarter, however. After Memphis ballooned their lead to 28, Nash emptied the bench and got a huge boost from the reserves. The lineup of Thomas-Carter-Sharpe-Brown-Duke Jr. breathed new life into the arena and gave the crowd some hope.

The group was able to cut the lead to as little as 10 on two separate occasions and forced the Grizzlies to put their starters back in. However, it proved to be too little too late as Morant and Bane sealed the game with some late buckets down the stretch.

The news of Kyrie Irving potentially making his season debut on Wednesday couldn’t have come at a better time for Brooklyn. They’ve lost three in a row and seem to be missing the spark that galvanized them during the tumultuous COVID stretch.

Irving’s presence will undoubtedly be felt during those poor offensive stretches. Having a scorer as gifted as Kyrie helps alleviate the pressure off Durant and Harden having to do the heavy lifting offensively. It will also provide a big boost in terms of spacing for Brooklyn, who have had their difficulties navigating lineups with the absence of Kyrie and Joe Harris.

Justin Thomas is a graduate of Temple University. While there, he was an on-air sports talk host for W.H.I.P as well as sports reporter for the Temple yearbook. Over the past few years, Justin has written for a few publications including Sports Illustrated. On top of writing for ESNY, Justin is also a Senior Writer for NetsRepublic.com and has had work featured on Bleacher Report.