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Weary Memphis Grizzlies Escape Milwaukee, Defeat the Bucks and Back At .500

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Against the Greek Freak and O.J. "Extra" Mayo, the Grizz overcame debilitating boredom to dispatch the awful Bucks.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Final - 1.15.2014 1 2 3 4 Total
Memphis Grizzlies 20 22 16 24 82
Milwaukee Bucks 10 25 25 17 77

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At a pivotal moment in the final playoff push, the Grizz had a prime chance to return to .500 against the lowly Milwaukee Bucks. Seemingly determined to make it hard on themselves, they went away from strong interior offense and let the Bucks push them around in the second half, until -- who else -- James Johnson woke everybody up. Memphis is now back to .500 for the first time since December 9th, when they were 10-10.

1st Half

Milwaukee got off to an 8-1 lead against Memphis' lethargic starters, but the bench checked in and (typically as of late) upstaged the first unit with a 19-2 run. The Bucks hung around in the second quarter thanks to 9 offensive rebounds and 16 points from John Henson and Caron Butler, scoring the final seven points to cut a 14-point lead to a 42-35 halftime score.

Marc Gasol played just five minutes before getting the hook and returned for five more in the second quarter, not really asserting himself in the offense (but, as Joerger noted recently, this phase is more about conditioning). Kosta Koufos sparked the front court with 8 first-half points (and a +16 plus/minus), while Zach Randolph was held to just 2-4 shooting. The Grizz were a quiet 45% in the half behind Mike Conley's 3-7 and four assists.

Those fanatical hoops fans in Milwaukee were out in full force for this Wednesday night headliner, by the way.

2nd Half

Brandon Knight exploded for 13 points in the third quarter, tying the game at 51 with 5:33 to go on a three-pointer. The Grizzlies were unable or unwilling to get to the rim, missing contested jumpers while the Bucks reeled off 7 of 10. Randolph and Gasol continued to struggle (they were a combined 2 of 14 on the night), and Milwaukee dominated the glass, taking a 60-58 lead into the final period.

Dave Joerger shuffled the lineup to start the fourth, going to Jamaal Franklin, Ed Davis, and Mike Miller with James Johnson and Nick Calathes. The result? Foul trouble, and a 6-0 run that took almost four minutes. After a Bucks timeout, Johnson grabbed 4 more quick points (including a sweet steal-and-dunk), Mike Conley returned, and Ed Davis jammed a put-back to make it a 10-point lead for the final 6:00. Clinging to a 3-point lead in the final minute, the Grizz got a stop but could not make it a two-possession game. On Milwaukee's final possession, Courtney Lee disrupted Knight's pass, forcing Larry Sanders into a three-pointer, which he bricked.

Man of the Match

James Johnson: 15 pts, 6 reb, 5 ast, 2 stl, and 6 blocks. Off the bench. Need I say more?