WHEN: 7:00 PM CST
WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/NBA League Pass/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Grayson Allen (concussion protocol, Out), Jaren Jackson Jr. (left knee, Out)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Jonas Valanciunas
MILWAUKEE: DJ Augustin, Dante DiVincenzo, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez
This is fun right?!
The Memphis Grizzlies are inching closer to finally being fully healthy and in return the team has won 3 out of their last 4 games - including a record setting blowout against the Houston Rockets and a double digit win over a streaking Washington Wizards. The Memphis Grizzlies tonight welcome in a Milwaukee Bucks squad that has been running through the Western Conference as of late. This matchup will be the Bucks first time in Memphis since December 2019 but it will also mark the first time Ja Morant and Giannis Antetokounmpo share the same floor. Last December, Ja Morant was out with back spasms and when the two teams faced off in the Orlando Bubble the Milwaukee Bucks “did the job” for the Memphis Grizzlies a la World Championship Wrestling’s “Fingerpoke of Doom” by sitting Giannis, thus helping the Grizzlies secure their spot in the inaugural NBA play-in.
The Milwaukee Bucks will always be an imposing team as long as Giannis is on the floor, but there are several factors that work in the Grizzlies favor. Jonas Valanciunas has handled himself extremely well against Brook Lopez including one of his best performances in a Grizzlies uniform - a triple double that helped push the Grizzlies over the top in the bubble. The Bucks starting guards are currently one of the worst defensive combinations in the association and the Milwaukee Bucks have struggled on the road this season - including a Monday night road loss to the Denver Nuggets.
Giannis presents a problem for the Memphis Grizzlies on both ends of the floor but it is possible for them to steal one more win to close a turbulent yet successful first half of the season.
Every hero has their nemesis. Batman has the Joker. Superman has Lex Luthor. Spider-Man has Norman Osborn. In the case of Ja Morant, he has Jrue Holiday.
In a rookie season that saw Morant look comfortable going toe to toe against some of the NBA’s best, Jrue Holiday was an anomaly. Holiday played a vital role in the New Orleans Pelicans success against the Memphis Grizzlies last season making Morant’s life difficult on the perimeter whether it be forcing turnovers or taking away his driving ability and forcing him to become a jump shooter. This season will be slightly different as Holiday comes off the bench for Milwaukee as he recovers from his bout with COVID-19, but the problem can still persist. After a 3 week absence, Holiday is still trying to find his place offensively but he is just as stingy of a defender now as he was last season albeit in shorter spurts as he ramps up his activity. The Bucks starting guard group is one that Morant, Bane and Brooks can take advantage of offensively but it will be key that when Holiday does get in that they don’t allow him to completely disrupt their game plan and force Morant and others into jump shot complacency.
Win the Bench Minutes
The Memphis Grizzlies have one of the best bench units in the NBA and its only been bolstered by the arrival of Justise Winslow, who has gotten better with each passing game. The Grizzlies bench is the 2nd highest scoring bench in the league at 40.8 points per game which in conjunction with their ability to play lockdown defense has spelled nightmare scenarios for opposing teams. The Milwaukee Bucks do not possess the firepower off the bench to run with the Grizzlies 2nd unit but they have to make sure to not allow someone like Pat Connaughton to have a career night. While the defensive intensity is there for Milwaukee, the Bucks rank in the lower third of the league in terms of bench scoring and presents an opportunity for the Grizzlies to go on runs without Antetokounmpo and Middleton on the floor.
The Milwaukee Bucks are a good team. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton are going to get their stats every night - that is understood. The key is to win the minutes where you have the definitive advantage. If you do, you have a chance to take down one of the best teams in the NBA on your home floor and head into the All-Star break with all of the momentum with the impending return of your second star Jaren Jackson Jr. on the horizon.
The Memphis Grizzlies are playing good basketball right now heading into the break but they’re going to be put to the test tonight. Milwaukee represents the cream of the crop in the Eastern Conference. The Grizzlies proved they can step up to their competition last week when they dismantled Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers. The Milwaukee Bucks approach to the game of basketball will seem familiar to the Grizzlies as both teams pride themselves on paint defense as they both have hovered around being a top 10 defense this season.
The Bucks are one of the best three point shooting teams in the league but boast one of the leagues worst benches whereas the Grizzlies are the polar opposite. It will all come down to whether the Grizzlies 3PT shooting shows up and they can form the proverbial wall against Giannis Antetokoumpo to slow his momentum and make life difficult for him and Khris Middleton. The come down after playing in Denver can be a tough one which could work in the Grizzlies favor against a Bucks team that struggles on the road and with the All-Star break within arm’s reach.
FINAL SCORE: Grizzlies 115, Bucks 110
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