Who: Memphis Grizzlies (26-20) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (20-27)
Where: FedexForum in Memphis, TN
When: 7:00pm, Thursday January 28th
How to Watch: Fox Sports Southeast
How to Listen: ESPN 92.9FM Memphis
The Grizzlies, winners of 10 of their last 11 at home, hope to continue their solid play since Dave Joerger moved back to the tried-and-true starting line-up of yesteryear. (Sidenote: it was strange listening to Rick Trotter growl out the starting lineup without Z-Bo anchoring it, good to have that back.)
Look for Memphis to try to buck (HA!) a disturbing recent trend of winning too-close-for-comfort over inferior opponents. That, in addition to multiple double-digit blowouts suffered at the hands of the league's elite teams, has anchored Memphis's point differential far below what their record would indicate.
Jeff Green seems to have escaped from the dog house after his recent, er... disagreement with the coaching staff and demotion from the starting line-up. Coming off a season-best 30 point effort against Orlando, the notoriously inconsistent Green will need to step up in order for Memphis to make a leap into the upper echelon of the Western Conference.
One of the pleasant surprises in the East last year under Head Coach Jason Kidd, the Bucks have taken a step back this season. Plagued by a lack of outside shooting (we can relate), Milwaukee's offense has stalled and the defense hasn't been stout enough to make up for it.
Nonetheless, Milwaukee has a stable of young, long, springy backcourt players who could bother their smaller Grizzlies counterparts. Giannis "The Greek Freak" Antetokounmpo has the raw physical tools to be a dominant two-way wing and occasionally shows flashes of that potential. Khris Middleton has proven himself to be a solid 3-and-D prototype, and despite his lack of range Michael Carter-Williams is the kind of big, physical point guard that Mike Conley could struggle with.
MATCH-UP TO WATCH
The Bucks signed away offensively-gifted big man Greg Monroe from Detroit in the off-season, who has brought a consistent scoring presence but is weak on the defensive end. Look for Memphis to exploit this match-up on the blocks, regardless of whether Monroe is guarding Gasol or Randolph.
Former Grizzlies O.J. Mayo, Jerryd Bayless, and Greivis Vasquez all play for "The Good Land." Look for Bayless and Vasquez to receive warm receptions from the home crowd, while Mayo... well, let's say he won't get a standing ovation.
After a close call against Orlando and a few days rest at home, the Grizzlies should be able to avoid a let-down against the under-achieving Bucks. Look for the Grizzlies to win a low-scoring, defensive battle.