MEMPHIS, Tenn. –Desmond Bane scored 23 points, including nine in a row as Memphis rebuilt its lead in the fourth quarter, and the Grizzlies beat Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets 132-120 on Wednesday night.
Irving scored 43 points and Kevin Durant had 35 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. Still banned from playing home games due to a New York vaccination mandate, Irving was on the court for the first time since scoring a career-high 60 points in Orlando eight days earlier.
But that arrangement for Irving, who is not vaccinated against COVID-19, is coming to an end. New York City Mayor Eric Adams is set to lift the mandate for athletes and performers.
Memphis was the shorthanded home team this time with leading scorer Ja Morant sidelined with right knee pain. But the Grizzlies still had enough offense thanks to reserve De’Anthony Melton, who matched Bane’s 23 points, and Dillon Brooks, who finished with 21, among seven Memphis players to hit double digits .
“Great example of staying the course,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said. “We’ve said it all season long.”
As for the Grizzlies’ 15-2 record without Morant, Jenkins said, “Together. This is probably the most important thing.
The Grizzlies have won six of seven and are second in the Western Conference. They have a two-game lead over the Golden State Warriors, who beat the Miami Heat 118-104 on Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, the Nets maintained their one-game lead over Charlotte for eighth place in the Eastern Conference after the Hornets lost 121-106 to the New York Knicks.
Early on, after a quick start, Memphis held a comfortable lead until the Nets weren’t trailed in the third. Memphis squandered a double-digit second-half lead but pulled away in the fourth quarter, outscoring Brooklyn 29-16.
“The fourth quarter went through and we adjusted our coverage,” Jenkins said, adding, “Our defensive activity really set the tone, going from 42 points (third quarter for Brooklyn) to 16 points. That really triggered our attack.
The Grizzlies led 76-62 at halftime and by 15 points early in the third quarter, but Brooklyn relied on Durant and Irving to pull away. Brooklyn shot 16 of 22 during the period and led 104-103 entering fourth.
Durant noted that Brooklyn’s 14 turnovers and Memphis’ 16 offensive rebounds leading to 33 second-chance points were tough to overcome, even with Morant out.
“They’re playing with freedom knowing that (Morant) isn’t there, so a lot of guys are playing with a free mind and spirit,” Durant said. “See, that translates to buckets.”
Nets: Have lost five straight in the series. The Grizzlies are the only team the Nets haven’t beaten this season. … Durant had two blocks. … The Nets had 52 points in the paint, compared to 48 for Memphis, which leads the NBA in the category, with an average of 58.2.
Grizzlies: Regarding Morant’s status, Jenkins said, “He’s been dealing with pain that’s crept in over the last two days, just offloading.” … The victory was Memphis’ 50th of the season, the fourth time Memphis had won so many and the first since 2014-15. … Bane made six 3-pointers, moving him past Mike Miller for the most 3s by a Grizzlies player in a season.
Irving turned 30 on Wednesday, but it was his coach who received a gift when news broke that the star could soon play at home.
“I would love that,” Steve Nash said with a laugh.
The Grizzlies took a 40-32 lead in the first quarter. In recent games, it’s been Brooklyn jumping to quick leads, playing opponents from behind. “When you give up almost 40 points in the first quarter and it feels like you’re playing from behind for most of the game,” Irving said, “the momentum changed on their side. I felt like that they were doing to us what we try to do to other teams, which is to beat them in the first half and then be able to coast.
Nets: In Miami on Saturday.
Grizzlies: host Indiana on Thursday.
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