WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS- Chandler Parsons (Out, Feelings); Dillon Brooks (Out, Toe); Kyle Anderson (Out, Ankle)
MILWAUKEE-Donte DiVincenzo (Out, Ankle)
MEMPHIS- Mike Conley, Jevon Carter, Garrett Temple, Jaren Jackson Jr, Marc Gasol
MILWAUKEE- Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez
From one MVP candidate to the next. The Grizzlies come back home to Memphis after another disappointing loss to the Rockets on Monday night. Tonight, they face off against one of league’s best teams, the Milwaukee Bucks. This, of course, means that Giannis Antetokounmpo comes to town. Just like Harden Monday night, it will cause multiple problems for this Grizzlies defense.
Memphis is back on a two-game losing streak desperately needing a win. The Grizzlies have the Bucks, Celtics, and Raptors in their next three games, so it is going to be tough sledding in this stretch. These games will show what this team’s mindset is to get back some positive ground.
Milwaukee has won eight out of the last ten games and have been a huge success story this season. They have won 31 games, their most recent in a 124-86 blowout against the Miami Heat at home. New head coach, Mike Budenholzer, has completely revamped their offense stressing the pick and roll action nearly every possession. He has helped with Giannis’ taking the big step this season to be an MVP candidate. Last season, it was just not quite their under Jason Kidd and Joe Prunty as head coach. It has been a delight to see this team’s development with a competent coach.
These two teams faced off back in mid November with the Grizzlies winning in Milwaukee 116-113. This win started the Grizzlies five-game win streak back in the good ole days. It was Marc Gasol with 29 points and Mike Conley with 26 points. It was a huge statement win that made people impressed with the Grizzlies early on in the season. If Memphis wants to recreate this outcome, they will need a dominant, replicated performance from everyone.
Here are two things to watch in tonight’s contest:
It is an obvious statement, but the path for a Grizzlies win is to contain Giannis as much as possible. This doesn’t mean to stop him and hold him to a terrible night scoring, but it is about making him as uncomfortable as possible. Giannis can score at will by driving to the paint with ease. The Grizzlies need to try and clog the paint making it difficult for him to get an easy score.
Last night for Giannis, he only played 25 minutes and notched a triple double with 12 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists. While he didn’t need to score, he still dominated the game in his limited minutes knowing they had the second of a back-to-back tonight in Memphis.
In their last game, he scored 31 points, and the Grizzlies took home the win. This was just above his season average of 26.7 points per game. All of those 31 points came from twos or free-throws. That is right in his comfort zone. The only possible solution to limiting production is to keep him out around the three-point line restricting his ability to drive. Because of Giannis’s freak length and athleticism, that is near impossible. However, if the Grizzlies are looking for any type of help, they should start there and prevent his fast breaks and drives to get into the paint.
The Grizzlies are at the crossroads. They are facing a huge decision looming for their season. If they can not win any of these games coming up, it will be that much more difficult to make the playoffs. They sit at the 14-seed right now, but only three games back in the loss column of the eight-seed Jazz. These losses will only build up over time, and then at the end of the month, it could be too late to make a playoff run.
There are many factors that go into why the Grizzlies are sitting in this position, but that would take a much longer post to go through. Either way, the team is sitting in a precarious position. Marc and Mike need to set up and get the job done to keep this team morale above water. The only remedy is winning and that is what the team has to do tonight.
With all that being said, I predict the Bucks to win easy tonight. The Grizzlies have just looked out of sorts these past two games. Being at home and the Bucks playing last night will help, but I just do not see the them being able to stop Giannis in order to get another win against them. Especially with the additional scoring of Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, and Brook Lopez playing even better than they were in mid-November.
The Grizzlies know they are in a do-or-die scenario, so maybe that will change how they come out of the gates. However, this Bucks teams scores in bunches. The Grizzlies will not have the fire power to keep up with the scoring.
Spread: Bucks –-5.5
Take the Bucks and lay the points. Unfortunately, I feel pretty confident about this one. Grizzlies haven’t looked like a team that can stop Milwaukee.
Memphis- 101, Milwaukee- 116