WHEN: 8:00 PM CT
WHERE: Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/NBA League Pass/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Brandon Clarke (Questionable, hip), Jaren Jackson Jr. (Out, knee), De’Anthony Melton (Out, leg), Justise Winslow (Out, thigh)
MILWAUKEE: Donte DiVincenzo (Out, toe)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Grayson Allen, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Jonas Valanciunas
MILWAUKEE: Jrue Holiday, Bryn Forbes, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez
The Grizzlies continue their seven-game road trip with a really tough SEGABABA, as they take on a Bucks team that has won three in a row. Milwaukee sits firmly in the three spot in the East, with their eyes on Brooklyn and Philly above them.
These two teams fought to the end earlier in the season in the final game before the All-Star break. The Bucks won 112-111 thanks to a jumper by bonafide Grizz-killer Jrue Holiday in the final seconds (Desmond Bane’s game winning attempt came up short.) In that game, Ja Morant tied his third-highest point total of the season with 35, but started the game 0-8 from the field.
The Grizz got a much-needed win over the Bulls on Friday night, after dropping a heartbreaker to Dallas thanks to Luka’s prayer being answered with a leaning three at the buzzer. But, while the Grizzlies are still dealing with their fair share of injuries, the Bucks are getting healthier, as Giannis and PJ Tucker returned to the lineup this week after both missed some games due to injury.
Will the Grizzlies be able to keep up with the Bucks and start their road trip 2-0?
Here are the keys to tonight’s game
The Buck(s) stops here:
Hope you like points, because there are going to be plenty of them poured in by both teams tonight. The offense of the Grizzlies is clicking in ways we have rarely seen in the history of the franchise, with the three-pointer actually being a weapon they can rely on instead of being an Achilles heel. Meanwhile, only three times all season have the Bucks not scored at least 100 points.
That’s why getting stops will be so important for the Grizz tonight. I know that defense has been a problem at times, but they will need to limit successful possessions and control the pace, especially as they are playing on a back-to-back and the Bucks had a night of rest last night. Both teams get their fair share of shots up, as they are 1 and 2 in the league on field goal attempts. If the Grizz can make things tougher for the Bucks to get clean looks, the Grizz should be able to hang.
My Mortal Kombat reference may be a week early, but the Grizzlies have to be able to close out games. They lost to this Bucks team in the final seconds last month; they lost to both Dallas and the Knicks in the past few weeks because they missed free throws that could have sealed it; and they had a chance to pull ahead of Indiana in the final minute on Sunday.
Justin Lewis and I discussed it on the ‘3 and D’ podcast this week on the importance of closing games. Sure, this is an example of a young team developing scars, but eventually it becomes a mental thing to where they may not believe they can close the game.
Milwaukee is a title contender and they will not let you get away with too many mistakes, especially if the game is on the line.
Win the bench:
It’s safe to say that Milwaukee has the best player on the floor in Giannis. But, both the Bucks and the Grizz usually get good production from their bench guys.
The last time these two teams played, the Grizzlies only got 12 points from their bench – 6 a piece from Winslow and BC. That simply cannot happen tonight.
The Bucks have a fantastic bench unit with Bobby Portis, PJ Tucker, Jeff Teague, and Pat Connaugton. Xavier Tillman, Desmond Bane, Tyus Jones, and crew will have to keep giving the production off the pine that they’ve been giving the past few games for the Grizzlies to have a shot.
As of this writing, the Bucks are an 8.5-point favorite over the Grizzlies tonight. A few things the Grizz do have going for them – they are better on the road than at home, and the last four win/loss streaks for the Bucks have been three games. Right now, the Bucks have a three-game win streak, so hopefully the Grizz can snap it.
But, I do think this may just be a ‘schedule loss’ for the Grizzlies. If they get down big early, it may give Coach Jenkins an excuse to rest some guys as their next six games after this one are against teams above them in the Western Conference.
Milwaukee 128, Grizzlies 110