There has been no shortage of “worst loss of the season” candidates for the Brooklyn Nets in 2023-24, but Monday's 106-102 home defeat to the shorthanded Memphis Grizzlies might take the cake.

Following two straight wins over the Atlanta Hawks, who are directly ahead of Brooklyn for the Eastern Conference's final play-in spot, the Nets had a prime opportunity to build momentum against a 21-win Grizzlies team with nine available players. Memphis' rotation was headlined by Luke Kennard, GG Jackson, Santi Aldama, and Jake LaRavia, among others.

Yet, Brooklyn's focus and hustle was not that of a team fighting for its season. The Nets allowed 15 offensive rebounds, leading to 25 second-chance points while missing 13 free throws. They routinely lost Kennard, a 45 percent three-point shooter, beyond the arc, allowing him to score a game-high 25 points on 6-of-9 from deep.

With the game tied at 88 with eight minutes remaining, Brooklyn allowed an 11-2 run from which Memphis would never look back. Following the loss, interim head coach Kevin Ollie didn't mince words about his team's sluggish performance.

“We got in the fight and we didn't swing back,” Ollie said. “And when you don't keep swinging, you get knocked out, and they knocked us out. Starting with me, the coaching staff, the players. We stopped swinging, and we can't do that. We're not talented enough to do that.”

“We've got to be scrappy, we've got to be the scrappiest team. We got to get every rebound, we got to hit, we just can't have empty possessions when we don't fight. We got to do a better job, but I believe in my guys, that they're gonna come back tomorrow, and we're gonna fight. We will play better.”

Not the Nets night

Brooklyn Nets interim head coach Kevin Ollie coaches against the Memphis Grizzlies during the second quarter at Barclays Center.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Nets struggled to get going offensively in the loss, shooting 35-of-80 (43.8 percent) from the field. After tying the game at 88, Ollie's squad shot 3-of-13 from the field and 1-of-8 from three over the final eight minutes.

Mikal Bridges could not build upon a 38-point performance during Saturday's victory over Atlanta, scoring 14 points on 4-of-14 shooting. After shooting 11-of-18 from three in the pair of Hawks wins, Cameron Johnson shot 6-of-16 from the field and 3-of-10 from deep.

Despite facing a two-game deficit for 10th place in the East, the latter admitted Brooklyn's engagement was not where it needed to be in a must-win game.

“It’s something we can control, for sure,” Johnson said. “The game makes you pay when you’re not locked in. I thought our focus was higher the last couple games and in this one it slipped a little bit. So it's on us, we got to be a lot better.”

The loss drops the Nets to 24-37, two and a half games back of the East's final play-in spot with 21 left to play. Brooklyn will be back in action Tuesday at Barclays Center vs. the Philadelphia 76ers.

“Our effort wasn't good enough to get a win, and every game, it costs,” Ollie said of Monday's loss. “We didn't play hard enough to get this win. That goes for coaches, that goes for everybody, you got to pay the cost for a win. That's effort, that's energy, that's playing together, that's hitting, that's doing all of those small things.
“We let opportunities slip through our fingers, but the good thing about it: We play tomorrow, and we got an opportunity to make it back up.”