MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Nets needed a win and they got one.
It didn’t matter how it looked or who they were playing because it didn’t look good and they were facing perhaps the worst team in the NBA.
All that mattered, though, was Nets 99, Grizzlies 88. The Nets’ season-long five-game losing streak is over. This could have been devastating if you were reading about a six-game skid.
Fittingly, in the building John Calipari calls home, the Nets refused to lose. Though it never looked as if they would lose, they twice let up a double-digit lead and even their coach was worried about whether they had another run in them after the Nets’ grueling three-point loss Friday night at San Antonio.
But the Nets did, finding energy and big plays from bench performers, most notably Keyon Dooling.
The backup guard, who is playing on a bum ankle and struggled late with two big misses late against the Spurs, rebounded in a big way a little under 24 hours later.
Dooling scored seven fourth-quarter points and did a good job of helping limit talented rookie O.J. Mayo. With him on the floor in the fourth, the Nets built another double-digit cushion that they never20gave up.
“What a difference one night makes,” Dooling said. “Last night you were asking me questions about the two misses, then tonight. You just play your game whatever comes, you’ve just got to be willing to step up and make plays.
“Sometimes they go for you and sometimes they go against you but you’ve got to stay with it.”
That’s what the Nets did collectively, showing a will that they weren’t going to become the Grizzlies’ first victim in nine games.
This is a Grizzlies’ team that just fired its coach, plays three rookies, one second-year player and one third-year guy. So they’re young and athletic, but they’re mistake prone, take bad shots and aren’t good defensively.
That’s why this would have been a potentially devastating defeat if the Nets hadn’t made the late-game charge to put the Grizzlies away. But they did and you could feel the sense of relief in the locker room after the game.
“We were a desperate team,” Dooling said.
The Nets (20-24) played like one. They didn9 9t wilt when Memphis made their runs because they knew how important this game was.
The Nets just ended a stretch of games against Boston twice, Portland, New Orleans and San Antonio. This was the start of a little bit of a reprieve, if the Nets allow it.
On Monday, they close out the trip in Oklahoma City and then return home to face the Raptors. Then the Nets go on the road to Atlanta, who they’ve beaten three teams this season, and to Philly, where they’re 1-0. And then it’s a back-to-back with Milwaukee and at Washington.
The Nets have a chance to make up some of the ground they lost with this losing streak. It’s there for them, but they needed to get this one first.
“We wanted to break the losing streak,” said Vince Carter, who’s 23 points led the Nets. “We felt we let one slip away last night. We played well enough to beat a very good team but we couldn’t get the job done so we wanted to bounce back and hopefully get the job done.”
“It wasn’t about the record on the other side. I wasn’t looking for that. We were looking for another opportunity to get back on the floor and build off a tough loss. It didn’t matter where we were playing, who we were playing. It was a much-needed win.”
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)