MEMPHIS, Tennessee (Ticker) -- The New Jersey Nets continue to have trouble getting off the ground away from Continental Airlines Arena.
Late lineup addition Earl Watson scored a career-high 21 points as the Memphis Grizzlies stopped a seven-game losing streak with a 97-90 victory over the Nets.
Watson was inserted into the lineup with Jason Williams sidelined with the flu. The diminutive point guard responded with the best game of his career as he outplayed Most Valuable Player candidate Jason Kidd for the first three quarters.
Watson scored 13 points in the first half, helping the Grizzlies to a 46-36 lead. But his biggest basket may have been his tip-in with 3:09 remaining that gave Memphis an 84-77 advantage. He also added a career-high eight rebounds and handed out six assists.
"I actually got my hand on two of them," Watson said. "I was really mad I didn't get the first one 'cause I thought I had it. It just happened to come back to my side again. I thought Shane (Battier) tipped it back over. The Collins twin, he jumped a bit too early and I tipped it over him."
"I can't say enough about Watson, his second game he has played 40 minutes," Grizzlies coach Hubie Brown said. "He did a terrific job. We can live with him because he plays so hard. The highlight of the game was the tap that he made between all those big guys. That, to me, was about the biggest play of the game."
Despite leading the Atlantic Division, the defending Eastern Conference champion Nets continued to be ordinary away from home, where they lost for the second straight night and dropped to 12-15 overall. New Jersey is 22-2 at home, often playing in front of sparse crowds.
"At home, obviously, we play a lot better defense," Nets coach Byron Scott said. "We get into the open floor a lot better and that's because (of) our defense. We also cause more turnovers on the road. Tonight was the same as we've been doing. We come out at the beginning and stand around and wait and then react. By that time it's too late."
Kidd picked it up after a slow start and finished with 28 points for New Jersey, which never led and unraveled in the game's waning moments.
After Watson's tip-in gave the Grizzlies a seven-point lead, Kerry Kittles responded with a 3-pointer with 2:47 remaining, pulling the Nets within 84-80.
With a chance to get closer, the Nets came up empty on their next three possessions. Kittles missed a 3-pointer, Kidd could not convert a driving layup and Kenyon Martin was called for traveling.
Earlier in the quarter, Martin and Lucious Harris were assessed technical fouls for arguing. The Nets also committed four of their 19 turnovers in the final 2:47.
Watson made another big play to provide some breathing room. He drove the lane and fed Wesley Person, who drilled an open jumper for an 86-80 lead with 60 seconds remaining. The Nets got no closer than five points in the waning seconds.
Person scored 14 points to lead a strong effort from the Grizzlies reserves, who outscored the Nets' bench, 50-17.
The big effort by the bench helped make up for a poor game from leading scorer Pau Gasol, who managed just seven points as he was outplayed by Martin.
Rookie Drew Gooden and Lorenzen Wright each added 11 points for Memphis, which shot 43 percent (32-of-74).
Watson could not have gotten the Grizzlies off to a better start, sinking a pair of 3-pointers in a 15-2 surge to start the game. Memphis held a 25-8 lead after the opening 12 minutes.
"The first quarter gave us a cushion," Watson said. "They came at us really hard down the stretch, but we held on. We didn't break. Being on a young team, that's a real key."
"We had a very lackadasical effort," Scott said. "We just didn't come out ready to play. We let that team get any shot they wanted and they made shots. When we started to play and get in a very aggressive mode, it was too late. You can't do that in this league. We gave up way too much of a cushion at the beginning of the game."
As they were throughout Tuesday's loss at Orlando, the Nets were horrible from the floor in the first quarter. They missed 11 of their first 12 shots and went just 4-of-18 from the field in the period.
"They had more fire than we did," Martin said. "They wanted it at the beginning of the game and we didn't. They came like they really wanted to win. We came back and cut it to one or so, but just couldn't get over the hump."
A 3-pointer by Gooden gave the Grizzlies their biggest lead at 32-13 with 8 1/2 minutes left in the half before the Nets finally found their game.
Kidd scored seven points in a 19-10 surge that Kittles capped with a shot from beyond the arc, helping the Nets close to 42-34.
The Nets got as close as one point on two occasions in the second half, the last time at 63-62 with 11:42 remaining in the fourth quarter on a basket by Aaron Williams.
Martin finished with 15 points and Kittles 14 for New Jersey, which shot just 39 percent (30-of-77).