Game Preview: Memphis Grizzlies return home to face the putrid Milwaukee Bucks without Mike Conley

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Fear the Buck? Eh, probably not. Mike Conley's absence due to an ankle sprain will hurt tremendously, but if there is one team the Grizzlies want to face without Conley, it's Milwaukee.

2013/2014 NBA Season
vs
25-20 (12-13 home)
Won 5
8-38 (4-20 road)
Lost 5
February 1st, 2014
FedexForum in Memphis, TN
7:00 PM CDT
Fox SportsSouth/ 92.9 FM ESPN
Possible Starters
Nick Calathes PG Brandon Knight
Courtney Lee SG Nate Wolters
Tayshaun Prince SF Khris Middleton
Zach Randolph PF Ersan Ilyasova
Marc Gasol C Larry Sanders
2013/14 Advanced Stats
92.24 (30th) Pace 94.27 (25th)
102.9 (18th) OEff 96.0 (30th)
102.9 (15th) DEff 106.3 (27th)

Line: Memphis -14: O/U: 182

Opponent's Blog: Brew Hoop

Injury Report: Memphis Grizzlies: Mike Conley - Questionable (Ankle); Tony Allen - Out (Hand); Quincy Pondexter - Out (Foot); Milwaukee: John Henson - Out (Hand); O.J. Mayo - Out (Illness); Ekpe Udoh - Out (Ankle); Zaza Pachulia - Out (Foot); Carlos Delfino - Out (Foot)

Memphis Grizzlies Tickets

Literally the Worst

We all have heard the expression "literally the worst" either in person, on twitter, or somewhere else. Well, the Milwaukee Bucks are literally the worst team in the NBA this season. Losing Mike Conley is a huge blow for Memphis, but playing the wounded Bucks should help the Grizzlies ease into learning how to play without Conley.

To help you get an idea for how bad the Bucks are, they were beaten just last night by the Orlando Magic, the second worst team in the NBA, by double digit points. As one might expect, the Bucks don't do anything well. They are in the bottom five of the league in both offensive and defensive rating.

With John Henson, one of the Bucks best, most promising players, out of tonight's game with a sprained wrist, the Grizzlies task is just getting easier.

Cut It Out

Milwaukee is the worst offensive team in the NBA, and they only do a couple things above average. One of those things is cutting. Per Synergy Sports, the Bucks rank 11th in the league at scoring on cuts. The Grizzlies are average at defending cuts, ranking 15th in the league in that department, per Synergy Sports.

At times against the Minnesota Timberwolves just a night ago, the Grizzlies got lost and allowed a baseline cut behind the defense for an easy bucket. The Bucks are good at hugging the baseline and slinking into the paint unnoticed before receiving the ball for an easy finish at the rim. If Conley's absence somehow doesn't affect the defensive tear the Grizzlies are on, then they should be just fine against the most rotten offense in the NBA.

Pick & Roll Heavy

The Grizzlies are a good pick & roll team, and the Bucks are bad at defending it. Thus, Memphis should go to the pick & roll early and often. Not only is this an area the Grizzlies can exploit, but with Calathes being the only point guard left on the active roster, Head Coach David Joerger would be wise to utilize one of his best abilities, which is driving the lane and either kicking it out or shooting a floater.

Calathes has not received nearly as many minutes as he is due with Conley out, and it will be interesting to see if he can orchestrate an offense for an extended time, or if the law of diminishing returns will enter into play once he gets to a certain minutes threshold.

Something else to think about is who will be a heavily used secondary ball handler that will be able to step up at times and take on the point guard role, because there is no way Calathes will be able to run the point for all forty-eight minutes. He won't be expected to and luckily won't have to with Courtney Lee around. Lee's dribbling skills are not the most refined, but if he is set up to play within himself, he can perform quite well orchestrating plays for himself. Since joining the Grizzlies, Lee has been excellent as the ball handler in pick & roll opportunities in a small sample size. Per Synergy Sports, he is shooting 10-16 in that situation. If he can spell Calathes for a little bit every night Conley is out, that help the Grizzlies offense a great deal.

Final Prediction

Memphis' key cog Mike Conley is out, but the Bucks are just so horrible. With Milwaukee missing several key players due to injury and illness, it's a game the Grizzlies should win easily. The Grizzlies are riding high on a five game winning streak, while the Bucks are down in the dumps on a five game losing streak. However, things aren't usually black and white in the NBA, and we all know the expression 'any given night.' After returning from a decently long road trip, Memphis will need to remain their focus and do what they do best, which is win despite adversity. They've done it time and again, and with that being their M-O, don't expect it to be any different this time. I wouldn't be shocked if this team surprises a lot of people with a continued run of good play while Conley is out.

Final Score: Memphis 89, Milwaukee 80

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