EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) The way the New Jersey Nets have played this season no lead is safe.
Not even an 18-point lead was enough to stave off the Memphis Grizzlies.
Rudy Gay scored 29 points and the Grizzlies added another exclamation point to a frustrating season for New Jersey, rallying from the huge first-half deficit to defeat the Nets 104-94 on Sunday night.
O.J. Mayo scored 10 of his 24 points in a 17-point run that bridged the third and fourth quarters and put the Grizzlies ahead for good, adding to the woes of the Nets (5-51).
“We just had to relax a little bit and come out and play,” said Mayo, who added six rebounds and seven assists. “Sometimes when you play a team with a record like the Nets, you fell a little bit of pressure. You don’t want to be the next victim. I don’t say that in a disrespectful manner, but that’s the way it feels.”
It felt even worse for the Nets, who continue on the road to the NBA record for fewest wins in a season, set by the Philadelphia 76ers (9-73) in 1972-73.
“This has been the story of our year,” veteran guard Keyon Dooling said. “We have been good in stretches but not long enough to sustain 48 minutes, and if you don’t play 48 minutes in this league, you will lose. We’re not good enough to take possessions off, or have a few bad possessions. We can’t make up for it in the talent department or the experience department that good teams do. We don’t have that luxury. We have to be near flawless to win.”
The Nets were good for about 13 minutes and that was enough to build a 38-20 lead behind a 17-point first quarter by center Brook Lopez. The rest of the night belonged to the Grizzlies, who won for only the third time in 11 games.
“Lopez was killing us down at their end and we needed to stop that,” said Gay, who was 13 of 21 from the field. “But then Marc (Gasol) stepped up his defense and started rebounding. Then everybody started to step up.”
The Grizzlies, who rallied from an 18-point deficit before losing to Miami in double overtime on Friday, surged behind Gay and Mayo in the second quarter to chip the deficit to 58-47 at the half.
Gay scored six straight points in an early third quarter run that got the lead down to seven, but the big run came late in the quarter and at the start of the fourth.
Memphis scored the final 12 points in the third quarter to take a 78-74 lead with Mayo scoring a three-point play early and a breakaway late. Randolph had tied the game at 74-all with a three-point play.
Mayo provided the Grizzlies’ final push hitting a jumper and a 3-pointer in the opening minute to push the Memphis lead to 83-74.
“It’s not like they don’t know how to win,” Gay said of the Nets. “It’s just right now they don’t have it. You can’t take any team lightly. I’ve been on teams where opponents took us lightly and we went out there and kicked their butt.”
Zach Randolph added 18 points and 10 rebounds and Gasol tallied 14 of his 16 points in the second half for Memphis.
Lopez had 26 points to lead the Nets, but only four came in the second half. Devin Harris added 16 points and 13 assists, but the point guard was only 1 of 6 in the final two quarters.
“It’s frustrating, it’s disappointing, but we continue to make the same mistakes,” Harris said. “Until we learn from it, it’s going to be tough to try to win these games. We have to be better.”
Yi Jianlian had 15 points for New Jersey, which could not capitalize on its biggest quarter of the season, a 36-point outburst in the first 12 minutes.
After falling behind by nine points in the fourth quarter, the Nets got close twice. A follow by Terrence Williams cut the advantage to 85-82, but former Net Marcus Williams converted a three-point play to ignite a seven-point run.
New Jersey got within 94-90 on a fast break by Courtney Lee with 3:56 left but Randolph tipped in a shot, Gasol made two free throws and Gay iced the game with a monster jam.
NOTES: Grizzlies F Sam Young crashed into the media table in the second quarter, sending a cup of ice coffee flying. … It was Chinese Cultural Night at the game and Yi addressed the crowd in Chinese before the game. The starting lineups also were announced in Chinese. … Nets F Jarvis Hayes strained his left calf in the third quarter and did not return.