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Saturday, November 30, 2013
Nets look like different team

By Mike Mazzeo

Clearly, the Brooklyn Nets got their coach’s message.

A day after Jason Kidd benched four of his five starters for the entire second half of a blowout loss in Houston, the Nets responded with the proper energy and effort in a 97-88 win over the Memphis Grizzlies at the FedEx Forum.

Two of those starters -- Joe Johnson and Andray Blatche -- led the way for the Nets on Saturday. Johnson scored 16 of his game-high 26 points in the first quarter, while Blatche -- back in a reserve role due to the return of Kevin Garnett -- added 21 points and a career-high three 3-pointers.

Joe Johnson, Tony Allen
Joe Johnson poured in 26 points, a night after being benched.
“That’s exactly what it was. It was a response,” Blatche told reporters in Memphis. “We played flat against Houston. The kind of effort we played with tonight is the kind of effort we have to play with every night.”

The Nets (5-12) have won just three of their past 13 games, but are currently just two games behind the idle Toronto Raptors (6-9) for first place in the Atlantic Division and the No. 4 seed in the horrendous Eastern Conference. And nine of their next 12 games are at home.

The Nets, who have been decimated by injury, need to get healthy. They have started seven different lineups -- second-most in the NBA.

They also need to find some consistency. They have yet to win consecutive games this season.

If there was ever a perfect time to right the ship, this is it.

Asked about his team’s rough month of November, in which it played 10 of its first 16 games on the road, Kidd responded, “What rough month? It’s been a great process and a great learning experience.”

Maybe for him.

The Grizzlies were without Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph on Saturday, but the Nets certainly weren’t feeling sorry for them. After all, Brooklyn was without Paul Pierce, Deron Williams, Andrei Kirilenko and Jason Terry.

The Nets built a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter, then nearly squandered it.

Enter Mirza Teletovic. After Memphis got within 75-74, Teletovic scored five straight points, igniting a 21-6 run that enabled Brooklyn to close out the win.

In his past three games, Teletovic is averaging 14.3 points on 46.4 percent shooting.

“Those guys stayed together,” Kidd said. “No one hung their head. No one panicked. We got stops when we had to. They made their run, but we responded, and that’s what good teams do.”

Brook Lopez missed six of his first seven shots, but came up huge in the final quarter, when he scored 12 of his 20 points. Lopez’s dominant scoring ability in the post was certainly missed. The Nets are glad he’s back.

“We have somebody that we can go to at the end to close games for us,” Blatche said.

Garnett also made a significant contribution, scoring eight points and grabbing five rebounds. Defensively, the Nets held the Grizzlies to just 37 points in the first half -- the fewest points they’ve allowed in any half this season.

“He’s done it for us all season defensively,” Kidd said of Garnett, who came into Saturday’s game sporting a 105.6 defensive rating but shooting 36.1 percent. “And he’s had great looks [on jumpers] that haven’t gone in.”

Offensively, the Nets shot 46.6 percent and drained nine of their 18 3-point attempts. “They’re sharing the ball. There was a lot of movement. Guys weren’t settling,” Kidd said.

Heading into December, the Nets remain a work in progress. But the month provides them with the perfect opportunity to forget about November.

Everyone except Kidd, anyway.