Johnson, Lopez leads Nets past Grizzlies
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Guard Joe Johnson took care of the first quarter and center Brook Lopez took care of the fourth as Brooklyn defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 97-88 on Saturday night at the FedExForum for just the Nets’ second win in their last nine games.
Johnson, who finished with a game-high 26 points, scored 16 in the first quarter to get the Nets (5-12) off to a solid start as they finished the opening frame with a 24-19 lead after having trailed by 16 points after one quarter in their last two losses. Lopez, who scored 20 points with nine boards, had 12 points in the last quarter as the Nets closed out the game.
“I just wanted to be aggressive on both ends of the floor,” said Johnson, who was 9-for-15 from the field and 4-of-7 from 3-point range. “We played through (Lopez) down the stretch and when they didn’t double, he made them pay.”
Memphis (8-8) never had a second-half lead, but when guard/forward Quincy Pondexter hit a 3-pointer with 9:41 left in the fourth quarter the Grizzlies pulled to within a point at 75-74. However, a floater from Lopez at the 5:58 mark got the lead back to double digits, at 86-76, and Memphis did not threaten after that.
“No one panicked,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said. “We got stops when we had to. They made their run but we responded.”
The Grizzlies played without power forward Zach Randolph (ingrown toenail) and center Marc Gasol (MCL sprain in left knee). Since Randolph joined the Grizzlies in the 2009-10 season, it was the first time the Grizzlies played a regular season game without both of them. Yet they still managed to win points in the paint, 42-34.
Wining at home again proved more difficult. The Grizzlies dropped their fourth straight home game, falling to 3-5 at the FedExForum this season. Last season, Memphis compiled a franchise-best 32-9 (.780) home record. Memphis is the only Western Conference team with a better road record (5-3) than home record (3-5).
“I don’t know what it is,” said Pondexter, who scored career-high 22 points after not playing in the previous two games.
“Maybe we’re too lax,” said shooting guard Tony Allen, who had 13 points. “Maybe we try to rely on our crowd and on the road we feel like we’re the underdog.”
The Nets were not at full strength Saturday, either, playing without point guard Deron Williams (sprained ankle) and forward Paul Pierce (bruised hand).
“That’s part of the NBA,” Johnson said. “Injuries happen. You can’t feel sorry for yourself.”
Veteran forward/center Andray Blatche made a career-high three, 3-point baskets in as many attempts for the Nets and finished with 21 points and eight rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench. Until Saturday, he had been 1-for-7 from 3-point range this season.
“Don’t think, just react,” he said of hitting the threes. “Take it when it presents itself.”
Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley scored 16 and finished with 10 assists, but without Gasol operating as a second-tier distributor more pressure has fallen on him to create for everyone else. Conley came in averaging a career-best 18.5 points per game, but said with Gasol out he really can’t think of shooting first.
“With Marc out there, there was another point guard,” Conley said. “Now I‘m by myself. There were some funky lineups tonight but if a guy’s wide open, I‘m not gonna take a shot over two people.”
Kosta Koufos, who started at center for Memphis, posted a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds in 40 minutes.
Johnson, who is from Arkansas, got a chance to see some family and friends while in Memphis and that might have provided extra spark.
“Maybe a little, but not really,” Johnson said. “It’s great to see family and friends and hang out. What’s been going on with us as a team has been kinda tough.”
NOTES: The game marked the start of a season-long six-game homestand for the Grizzlies. ... Brooklyn added one more to the injury list Saturday night as F Paul Pierce sat out with a bruised hand. He joined G Deron Williams (sprained left ankle), G Jason Terry (bruised left knee) and F Andrei Kirilenko (back spasms), all of whom have missed multiple games. ... Memphis PF Zach Randolph missed Saturday’s game after having an ingrown toenail cut out Saturday. ... Without All-Star C Marc Gasol (MCL sprain of the left knee), Memphis PG Mike Conley focused more on playmaking in the previous two games and handed out 19 assists with zero turnovers. Kosta Koufos grabbed 13 rebounds in each of his first two starts at center.