WHERE: BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH: Fox Sports Southeast/ 92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS- JaMychal Green (Doubtful, Left Ankle), Jarell Martin (Questionable, Right Knee)
MILWAUKEE- Jabari Parker (Out, Left Knee), Mirza Teletovic (Doubtful, Knee)
MEMPHIS- Mike Conley, Dillon Brooks, James Ennis III, Jarell Martin, Marc Gasol
MILWAUKEE- Eric Bledsoe, Tony Snell, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, John Henson
The Grizzlies come in to Monday night on the last leg of their five-game road trip. They are coming off a tough loss against Houston on Saturday and look to change the narrative as they take their one trip to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Bucks are on a two-game win streak, led by MVP front-runner Giannis Antetokounmpo.
This Bucks team has had a new look the last two games after Eric Bledsoe joined the team from Phoenix. He has gelled with the team quickly, running things at the point. The trade has given Milwaukee a constant burst of high offense from the point guard position that they weren’t quite getting from Malcolm Brogdon. It will be interesting to see how this Bucks team comes out early.
These two teams are not too familiar with each other, which will make for a feeling out process at the start of the game. The Grizzlies and Bucks split their two matchups last season with both teams winning at home. However, this will be a different battle as Giannis as taken the jump to the next level. He will be the X-Factor in Monday’s showdown.
Here are three things to note before tonight’s matchup:
As NBA fans, Grizz Nation should be very excited to see this up-and-coming star play against the Grizzlies. Giannis has had such an incredible start to the year it is almost hard to put into words. He is averaging 31.7 points and 10.4 rebounds a game (combined with 4.7 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.8 blocks) this season combined with a PER of 32.7. But, the stat line can’t even do it justice. The ability he has to get to the rim no matter where he is on the court is what changes games. Giannis will go on to be one of the great, must-see players in this league. He may already be one.
That said, the Grizzlies have a game to win. It will start with trying their best to shut him down. Giannis’s biggest weakness? His shooting from outside. So, the Grizzlies will have to clog the paint in order to defend against him driving. Gasol will have to stay at home letting John Henson or Thon Maker kick out. The Grizzlies will feel better about one of those two beating you than Giannis on consistent drives to the hole.
Jarell Martin, if healthy, will be called upon to guard Giannis straight up. This is not good news if the other guys out there do not help on defense. Martin has shown to be a defensive liability before, and it will only look worse Monday night. Help defense and clogging the paint will be the best hope of stopping this possible MVP.
Getting the Guys Going
It has been all about the Grizzlies bench so far this season. This bench unit is in the top of the league in scoring with 44.4 points per game. They have been the glue that has kept this team together on off nights from their starting five. Honestly, without them, the focus would be much more prominently squared on lack of scoring outside of Mike and Marc. The second unit has carried the team to this early record and will be called upon again Monday. The Bucks do not have a very deep team, so if the Grizzlies can outscore them in the valuable minutes they are out there, they’ll have a great shot Monday night.
Meanwhile, over the last few games Mike Conley has struggled. In the last two games, he’s only scored 1 point in the first halves. As mentioned in the Houston Game Report Card from Saturday, it is not something to be worried right now. He knows that he is due for a big game. Mike is his own worst critic, so Grizz Nation should look for a bounce back soon.
Bledsoe’s defense goes back and forth with if he is caring or not that night, so Monday may be the night Conley can get a rhythm early against some suspect defense.
My prediction is that the Grizzlies pull one out in Milwaukee. The Grizzlies will come ready to play with a travel day in between their games and will know this can be another statement win against an up-and-coming team.
The Bucks have only played a few solid defensive teams this year (Boston and Oklahoma City) and have lost both of these games. With Memphis having the fifth best defensive rating in the league, the Grizzlies look to continue the Bucks’ trend of dropping these games. Bledsoe brings another added element to the team, so stopping him and Giannis will be crucial. The Grizzlies will get the job done Monday night.
Spread: -4.5 MIL I see this being a low scoring affair if the Grizzlies have any shot at winning. Making Giannis shoot is the best way to slow him down, and Gasol clogging the driving lanes will restrict easy access to the paint. I see the Grizzlies winning this one outright, so take the Grizz moneyline or play it safe and take them plus the points.
Memphis- 94, Milwaukee- 89
All stats provided by NBA.com and Basketball Reference