Chalk this one up as a positive for a team in dire need of some good mojo.
The Nets came off Friday night’s blowout loss and handled the Memphis Grizzlies with ease, winning 97-88. Brooklyn edged Memphis in the battle of the walking wounded. The Nets continued to play without Deron Williams while Paul Pierce joined the point guard on the inactive list. The Grizzlies played without their starting front court in Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.
The Nets accomplished a rare feat thus far this season: take advantage of the match-ups.
Brook Lopez rebounded from his first game back with a loud encore. Lopez notched 20 points and nine rebounds, plus the big man knocked down six of his final nine shots. Power forward Andray Blatche added 21 points off the bench.
One of the more telling signs in the game came from Joe Johnson. In Pierce’s absence, Johnson did not need to share the ball out on the perimeter.
Johnson stepped up as “the guy.” He went for 26 points, six assists, and five rebounds.
“Joe is trying to step up and he did that tonight,” head coach Jason Kidd said. “The guys followed him.”
Johnson and Lopez played well off each other, and the duo responded with buckets every time the Grizzlies threatened the double-digit Nets lead.
Pierce has struggled mightily throughout his first 15 games. A career 44.6 percent shooter, Pierce has managed just 36.8 percent from the field. Pierce is scoring 9.3 ppg below his career average.
While father time boasts an undefeated record, no one anticipated a rapid decline. His age might not correlate directly to the slump, but the Nets will need Pierce in some capacity if they hope to contend with the league’s elite.
They got on the right track Saturday night in Memphis, though.
The Nets return to action Tuesday night at the Barclays Center against the Denver Nuggets.