WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
WHEN: 7 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MILWAUKEE- Michael Beasley (Out, knee), Jabari Parker (Out, knee), Malcolm Brogdon (Questionable, back), Mirza Teletovic (Questionable, hamstring)
MEMPHIS- Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Chandler Parsons, JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol
MILWAUKEE- Matthew Dellavedova, Khris Middleton, Tony Snell, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Thon Maker
Talk about two teams going in different directions.
The Memphis Grizzlies are currently in the midst of a miserable five-game losing streak. They have lost those five contests by an average of 13 points per loss. Their defense has been miserable - a 117.5 defensive rating is 13.3 worse than their season average - and they have struggled so mightily that frustration is clearly beginning to boil over.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Milwaukee Bucks are currently the hottest team in the NBA. They’re riding a six-game winning streak, having beaten the likes of the Clippers and Raptors during their run of success. Giannis “The Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo is a legitimate NBA superstar, the currently injured Malcolm Brogdon is a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate, and the young Bucks are rising up the Eastern Conference standings on their way to the current eight seed in the East.
It would appear that these two squads are trending in different directions. How can Memphis stop their fall while halting Milwaukee’s rise, at least for one night?
Crash the Boards
The last time the Bucks lost a game was March 1st, a 110-98 defeat at the hands of the Denver Nuggets. On that night Milwaukee was out-rebounded by Denver 45-34. Over the Bucks’ six-game winning streak, they have either won or kept the rebounding battle within two all but once. But this is unusual, considering the Bucks rank 29th in the NBA in total rebounding, and they’re 6th in the NBA in opposing rebounds given up per game.
Outside of Antetokounmpo (again, a freak) and Greg Monroe, no other Bucks player averages more than six rebounds a game. Memphis must attack the glass, limiting Milwaukee to one possession on defense and getting extra shot attempts on offense. Not only will this lead to better execution, it will also show better energy from a Grizzlies team sorely missing both.
Disrupt and Keep Offensive Rhythm
The Bucks are in the top-eight this season in assists per game at 24.5 (5th) and steals at 8.3 (8th). When the Grizzlies defense is on (rare as of late, as mentioned previously) they force teams to take poor shots off the dribble and they play passing lanes to create turnovers for easy scoring opportunities. For Memphis to have a shot, they’ll have to disrupt an offense in rhythm through physical play, and they will have to make sound, crisp passes while making good choices in transition.
This will be key because again, it will show whether or not Memphis is locked in. Milwaukee is playing their best ball of the season, and this is a strength of the Bucks. If the Grizzlies can protect the ball and force the young Bucks into poor choices, Memphis has a real shot at ending their losing streak.
Memphis is fading while Milwaukee is heating up at the right time. So how can you say the Grizzlies will win this game?
Memphis is about to play a road back to back against the Bulls and Hawks, followed by a home game against the Spurs. If the Grizzlies drop this game tonight, the losing streak could realistically reach nine. The Bucks have a losing record on the road for the year, and outside of Antetokounmpo and Middleton, Milwaukee is thin because of their injuries.
Can the Bucks win tonight? Absolutely. Will they? Very possible. But Memphis needs this win on this night more than Milwaukee does, and that will carry the day.
Memphis 109, Milwaukee 106