By Jason Schott – BrooklynFans.com Reporter / Assignment Editor - @JESchott19
The Nets passed the .500 mark for the first time all season with another dominant performance over a top team, this time the Memphis Grizzlies, beating them 103-94 on Wednesday night at Barclays Center. The final score was not indicative, as the Nets led by as many as 30 points in the second half.
The Nets are now 30-29 and pull to within three games of the Toronto Raptors, who visit Brooklyn on Monday night in a pivotal game for the division race.
Deron Williams said of the achievement of getting over the .500 mark, “It’s been a long journey. It definitely feels good, it’s been a long journey getting here, and hopefully we can continue this play.”
Nets Head Coach Jason Kidd was asked what it means to him that they passed the .500 mark, and in his usual way, downplayed it by saying to the reporter who asked the question, “You want to answer that? It doesn’t matter.” Kidd continued, “We’re playing better. That’s all that matters. We’re playing better in the month of March, and that’s what you want to do leading into the playoffs. The record will take care of itself.”
Kidd said of getting back-to-back wins, “The guys played great tonight. I thought the energy in the last two games was kind of like a playoff-type situation, playing two similar teams (Chicago and Memphis) – big physical, well-coached. I thought the guys played great.”
Just as the Nets did against the Bulls on Monday, they started this one with a big run. They opened the game with an 8-0 run in the first two minutes, and that ballooned to a 21-point lead, 26-5, on an Andray Blatche three-point play with 3:30 left in the first. Paul Pierce had ten and Blatche had seven to lead the way in the first.
Memphis got back into it, and trimmed the Nets’ lead to 11 at 30-19 at the end of the first, and cut the Nets’ lead to 30-26 on a Tony Allen lay-up a couple of minutes into the second. This capped a 21-4 run by Memphis over a five and a half minute span.
The Nets responded with a 7-0 run and built their lead up due to the superb play of Marcus Thornton. He had 15 points in the second quarter on 6-9 from the field with three 3-pointers. He was a big reason why the Nets led 54-44 at halftime.
The Nets came out firing in the third, starting it off with a 9-2 run and, just like that, they led by 21 again, at 71-50 on a Joe Johnson three. They built that up as high as 30, at 87-57, on a Johnson floater with 1:30 left in the third. By that point, Memphis’ starters were out of the game and did not return. Their bench did so well in the fourth that Nets Head Coach Jason Kidd had to bring his starters back in for the final minutes to close it out.
The Nets were led by Joe Johnson, who had 21 points and shot a nice 8-for-13 and a superb 5-for-7 behind the arc.
Marcus Thornton had 20 points and also shot 8-for-13 and a great 4-5 on three-pointers. Thornton has now scored 20 or more points in two of his five games as a Net, remarkable considering he only had three 20+ games in 46 games with the Kings this season. Between this performance and the 25 he had on Saturday night in Milwaukee, he may have already scored more points than the guy he was traded for, Jason Terry.
Deron Williams said of Thornton, “I think that’s what we count on him doing. We knew what type of offensive player he was, what type of weapon he is, and now I think he’s enjoying this opportunity to be on this team playing with us, and we’re glad to have him.”
D-Will had a great night, with 16 points (7-13 FG) and 7 assists. In addition to a great night on offense, he shut down his counterpart on Memphis, Mike Conley, who had just two points and shot 0-for-8 from the field. Other Nets in double figures were Paul Pierce with 14 and Andray Blatche with 12.
The Nets won these two games without Kevin Garnett, who missed his third straight overall with back spasms. Blatche said about playing without KG, “Even though he’s been out, he’s still a major part of this team, it’s just guys have to step up. Mason Plumlee has been playing extremely well on defense with the starters, and that’s what has been helping.” Plumlee had 4 points and 6 rebounds in 15 minutes on Wednesday night.
Blatche said of the team’s success, “It’s more of how hard we are working on defense. The first unit is going out there and they are setting the tempo early for us; being very aggressive on offense and defense, and getting us off to a good start.”