Heading into Sunday night's game in Brooklyn, Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins had a feeling his team would slow things down a bit with their defensive effort leading the way.
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"The key was our defense. I said to people before the game that the way Brooklyn plays and we play, it could be 76-70 and it was pretty close," Hollins said.
"We stopped Brooklyn five times in a row. We then make the free throws, go up and then we continued to get stops."
Two of those free throws Hollins was possibly referring to were critical and sent Brooklyn to its second straight loss, both without Joe Johnson, the team's second-leading scorer.
Tony Allen chipped in 12 points, including two free throws with 19.5 seconds left to give Memphis a 74-72 lead. Allen was originally credited with a basket after Brooklyn's MarShon Brooks was called for goaltending. After the referees looked over replays they switched their call and gave Allen two shots after he was grabbed by Nets forward Mirza Teletovic on the field goal attempt.
The referees made another questionable call before Allen's free throws.
With 26.9 seconds remaining, Deron Williams drove toward the rim and was met by Randolph with Allen trailing behind. As Williams was about to attempt his shot, replays showed Allen fouling Williams from behind, with Randolph also contesting the shot.
Williams said afterward that he thought he was fouled, while Allen called it a good defensive play.
"Down the stretch of the game I just had my antennas up and was ready to be aggressive. I forced Deron to the big man [Randolph] on their last possession and I thank Zach for being there to stop his angle," Allen said.
"Once he cocked the ball back, I was able to get my hand on the ball. Then I was able to finish at the free throw line."
Williams, who led Brooklyn with 24 points, fell hard on the arena floor, grabbed his lower left leg and ran up the court despite a noticeable limp. Williams got kicked in the calf and said he was sore but good to go in the team's next game Tuesday at New Orleans.
The Nets point guard has been playing through a bevy of injuries this season that has kept him out of a few games yet he tried to do everything he could with his backcourt mate Johnson out due to a sore left heel.
"I got fouled up top and down low," Williams said. "I drove to the lane. I got fouled."
Memphis' defense held the Nets without any points and baskets made down the stretch with less than three minutes remaining.
Brooklyn had a 72-67 lead after Teletovic's fade away jumper with 2:50 left but the Grizzlies quickly tied it. Prince hit a 3-pointer with 2:31 remaining to make it 72-70. After Gasol blocked Andray Blatche's shot and Teletovic missed a 3-pointer, Conley hit a 19-foot shot with 1:18 left to tie it, 72-72. Brooklyn then missed two more shots as Brook's turnaround jumper was off the rim and then Allen made his game-changing play, blocking Williams' attempt.
"It was disappointing. We worked that hard," Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo said.
"I thought Deron did a great job taking the ball to the basket."
Brooklyn had a chance to tie it with 10.9 seconds left, but Williams turned the ball over as he attempted to pass it to Teletovic but the pass was picked off by Tayshaun Prince. Williams then fouled Mike Conley, who sealed it with a pair of free throws.
"I think it says a lot to get this win. I think this was a test game to see if we are playing well or not," Conley said. "To come in and beat a very good team in their home court says a lot about our integrity and our ability to step up in big games."
After Carlesimo ended his postgame news conference, some players left without addressing the media. Nets general manager Billy King walked alongside Brook Lopez and Blatche. King commented that the players would not be stopping in the hallway in order to avoid any possible fines on remarks they could make about the game's officiating.
Lopez, the team's lone representative in the All-Star game, played just three quarters and was benched in the final 12 minutes of the game. He scored just nine points, making just three of 10 shots from the field. Carlesimo said that Blatche "was playing better on both ends and was playing good defense".
Prince had 11 points to help the Grizzlies improve to 8-0 this season when holding opponents below 80 points.
C.J. Watson had 11 points and Blatche added 10 for the Nets.
- Memphis's longest winning streak of the season is eight games (Nov. 2-17).
- Memphis' 74 points is its second lowest season total. The Grizzlies scored 73 in a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on January 14.
- The Grizzlies tied a season low with points allowed in a game. Denver also managed 72 points in a loss at Memphis.
- Reggie Evans had 14 rebounds for Brooklyn.