The Grizzlies returned to a .500 record for the first time since December 9th with an ugly 82-77 win over the Milwaukee Bucks. It was also their first 4 game sweep since the big Pacific Sweep from November 15th to the 20th. Probably exhausted from the big win the night before over rival, Oklahoma City, and an emotional hangover from the return of centerpiece Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies were unable to really get things going, but still managed to get a win out of an ugly performance.
Gasol saw his second start in his second game back but minutes were very limited. And those limited minutes looked deserved. He is not at full strength yet and understandably so, but the younger Larry Sanders waskeeping Gasol very frustrated not being able to handle the ball the way he was used to.
Thankfully, they were playing the athletically-gifted-but-perpetually-underachieving Bucks, and kept the opposition to just ten points in the first quarter.
Kosta Koufos stepped up and had 8 points in the first half including a very pretty touch alley-oop to Ed Davis. Zach Randolph really struggled throughout the game, being kept to just 6 points on 2 for 10 shooting. These nights are becoming a little too frequent for fans to be comfortable with, but the team also seems to rise to have his back.
Pregame warm ups saw Tayshaun Prince hitting corner three's, which is not his usual wheelhouse, but in his new role as something more of a facilitator, saw Prince move the ball around before spotting up in the corner and hitting one of those corner shots. Prince has seen resurgence since the signing of Lee, and has really developed some good moves as a facilitator instead of a scorer. Because even in the good ol' Detroit days, Prince was never much of a scorer. But he is making some good moves on and off the ball and has started to draw defenders the way he wasn't a month ago because they knew he wasn't a threat. With Lee taking over for that midrange scoring, and having Prince stick with passing, defending and rebounding, that starting lineup will solidify.
Since taking over the team, the third quarter seems to be where Dave Joerger really seems to try and experiment. And frequently where the opposing team takes advantage of this. Brandon Knight started off the second half with 13 points and tying up the game with less than 6 minutes in the quarter. Joerger went away from attacking the paint, and making the front court of Ilyasova (perpetually injured) Sanders (headed into head case mode) and Antetokounmpo (great athlete, but still unsure of himself) become their own worst enemy over a more veteran Grizzlies front court.
Instead, the plays seemed to be directed to the perimeter, which is still a weak spot for the club, especially with Courtney Lee going only with 9 points and 1 for 3 from three point attempts. The Calathes Conundrum continued and he had another very shaky start to his appearance, unable to get a decent shot off on a fast break and then missing a free throw. He also went for a cross court pass to James Johnson that found its way out of the arena and the ball sitting at the foot of the Fonzie statue. He seemed to settle down eventually, ending the night with 3 points, 3 assists 1 rebound and +4 on the +/- scale.
Mike Conley also may have to modify his nickname to Bail Money Mike because every time one of these 3rd quarters show up where the successful game plan is thrown into a fire, Conley steps up takes over and begins pulling out old people and puppies from the building fire. This time he at some assist from James Johnson who cruised to 15 points with 6 blocks, 5 assists, 6 rebounds.
And hey Jamaal Franklin returned! Achieving an on-again, off-again relationship with the Fort Wayne Red Ants that we haven't seen since a 90's sitcom, it was nice to see Franklin play for, uh, 9 minutes! It's very confusing to see the development of Calathes over Franklin when Calathes has not shown us much of any kind of staying power and we just haven't seen enough of Franklin to even garner an opinion over him. Jon Leuer and Tony Allen were reported as DNP Coach's Decision, even though both were suited up on the bench. Allen is still rehabbing that damaged hand, but no word on why Leuer was sitting, although if you're going to switch to a perimeter shooting plan instead of an inside plan, it seems to make more sense to have Leuer on the floor.
Overall, it wasn't the ugliest of times, but it wasn't anything you would see on the cover of a magazine. But at least the Bucks new floor is something new to look at, right?
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