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Memphis Grizzlies vs. Milwaukee Bucks Game Preview

Things are tense. A win would help...or would it?

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

WHO: Memphis Grizzlies (18-48, 13-21 home) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (35-31, 14-17 road)

WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee

WHEN: 7:00 PM CT

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: FOX Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis


MEMPHIS: Jarell Martin (Questionable, foot), Mike Conley (Out, heel), Mario Chalmers (Out, hamstring), Tyreke Evans (Out, rib), Andrew Harrison (Out, wrist)

MILWAUKEE: Malcolm Brogdon (Out, quad), Matthew Dellavedova (Out, ankle)


MEMPHIS: Kobi Simmons, Ben McLemore, Dillon Brooks, JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol

MILWAUKEE: Eric Bledsoe, Tony Snell, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, John Henson

Your Memphis Grizzlies have been taking on water for some time now.

Not winning in roughly six weeks will do that to you. 17 games up, and 17 games down, with no victories to put in the ledger for the bears of Beale Street. It can drive a fan insane, or to write impassioned “still standing” articles, but the fact remains that no matter how much you stay true to the three shades of blue this team is just bad this season. And there is no real help on the immediate horizon - Tyreke Evans cannot save this team, much less Andrew Harrison or Mario Chalmers.

Meanwhile, the opposition for Memphis tonight is another one of those scrappy squads fighting for their playoff lives. Milwaukee, led by the Greek Freak Antetokounmpo, is 12-9 since former head coach Jason Kidd was dismissed and seems to have a bit more direction than they did. Very good players like Middleton and Bledsoe compliment Giannis nicely, and the Bucks figure to be competing for a postseason birth right up to the end of the season a month from now.

That’s right, Grizzlies fans. One month left. But who’s counting?

Here’s how Memphis can stop the streak.

Collapse the paint

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Antetokounmpo is one of the very best young players in the NBA for a reason. He lives up to his “freak” nickname - he is technically the power forward for this Bucks team, but can play point guard, shooting guard, small forward, and even center. Perhaps more than any other player in the NBA not named LeBron James, Giannis can literally be any and everything for his squad. Memphis simply does not have anyone who can defend Antetokounmpo, and he will probably get his.

But the Grizzlies need to do their best to ensure that he earns his points with solid paint defense, and that the rest of Milwaukee’s roster must beat them from beyond the arc. The Bucks are 7th in the NBA in 2 point field goal percentage (52.9%), but they are only 23rd in three point shooting percentage (35.2%). Even more telling is that they are 28th in made threes, and 26th in threes attempted, per game. They want to get to the rim, and convert in the paint or at the charity stripe (6th in free throws attempted and made per game).

If Memphis wants to keep this thing close, they cannot allow those easy buckets.

Be smart with the ball

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re reading this (hi, by the way!), you have likely watched a Grizzlies game or two this season. And you probably know that they are pretty bad with protecting the basketball, especially recently. Opposing squads are able to take advantage of that, and score plenty of points off of turnovers. For Memphis to grow as a team, they need to go beyond just protecting possessions. They must maximize them, as best they can.

More ball movement. Less jump shots early in the shot clock. More aggressive play getting to the rim. Less attempts when you simply do not have it (looking at you, 2-12 Kobi Simmons). Memphis, more than someone who can score, needs players who can help others score. There are no stars (aside from an overworked Marc Gasol) on this Grizzlies roster that are healthy, so facilitation and creation need to be more of a priority.

Memphis had 19 assists on 30 made shots against Dallas. If the Grizzlies can get that to, say, 26 assists on 35 made shots? With an estimated 100 or so points, Memphis will be in a better place to compete offensively.

The Prediction

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not an accident Marc and JaMychal are featured in every picture in this preview. If this streak is going to end, they are going to have to play the best basketball of their season because no one else is capable of carrying (Marc) or energizing (JaMychal) this team. They are too young in some spots, and simply not good enough in others. And Milwaukee is 3-7 in their last 10 games, so it’s not like they are on fire coming in to FedExForum.

Memphis should compete with the Bucks for a while in their first contest with Green, Gasol, and Chandler Parsons since February 14th against the Oklahoma City Thunder, a 7-point loss. That doesn’t change the fact that Memphis simply doesn’t have the horses. The streak will eventually end. It won’t be tonight.

But it’ll be closer than folks think.

Milwaukee 104, Memphis 101

Follow @sbngrizzlies