Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Monta Ellis' 1/14 shooting night highlighted (lowlighted?) an absymal shooting night for the Bucks, who looked all kinds of ugly in their first and only ESPN game of the season.
Bad offense + great defense = all kinds of ugly.
Facing off against the league's stingiest defense, the Bucks' high scoring backcourt couldn't score at all early on, nor could it score enough late to keep the Bucks competitive against one of the league's best teams. Double-doubles from Zach Randolph (15 pts, 17 rebs) and Marc Gasol (12 pts, 12 rebs) led the way for Memphis, but it was the Grizzlies' defense that did much of the damage in holding Milwaukee to an anemic 35% shooting.
Both teams started the game miserably with a flurry of missed shots in the paint, but Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings were the story of the first half--and not in a good way. The Bucks' starting guards combined for an atrocious 0/14 from the field in the opening quarter, single-handedly dragging the Bucks' fg% down to 23% for the quarter and 26% for the half. And yet the Bucks not only hung in the game, but they actually found themselves leading 22-21 after the first quarter. No one's really sure how it happened, but the Grizzlies' turnovers, Gasol collecting two early fouls, Memphis' lack of threes and Mike Dunleavy's five to close the period probably helped.
But the Grizz began to throw their weight around in the second quarter while continuing to lock down the Bucks defensively, outscoring Milwaukee 22-12 in the period to claim a 43-34 edge going into halftime. Luc Mbah a Moute bravely battled Randolph in the post, but the latter had 12 rebounds in the first 14 minutes alone and Memphis was +14 on the boards after just two quarters. Larry Sanders' foul trouble didn't help matters, as Scott Skiles curiously went with the undersized combination of Mbah a Moute and Drew Gooden against Gasol and Randolph for much of the second quarter.
Meanwhile, Ellis reacted to his poor start by shooting more and more jumpers, playing right into Tony Allen's hands on his way to 0/10 shooting half. Jennings fared better in finishing the second quarter by making 3/4 shots after his own 0/8 start, and only the Bucks' care with the ball (five turnovers in the opening half) prevented Memphis from running away with the game earlier.
Alas, they didn't have to wait too much longer to blow the game open. Rudy Gay caught Marquis Daniels napping for a weak side alley oop to start the third, then finished off a break with another flush as Memphis was able to consistently run off turnovers and long rebounds in the second half. On the other end Ellis continued to struggle, missing twice more as Bucks nation began to wonder if Tim Hardaway's NBA record-worst 0/17 single-game shooting record might be in danger. Jennings salvaged his night somewhat by hitting 9/18 to finish the game (/26 fg, 26 pts overall), but the Bucks never seriously threatened a comeback. Ellis mercifully broke his goose-egg with a driving lay-up near the end of the fourth quarter, but at that point there was no redeeming a 1/14 shooting night that will no doubt go down as his worst night in a Bucks uniform to date.
On the positive side, Sanders was effective when he was actually on the court (8 pts, 9 ebs, 3 stl, 2 blk) while Daniels (12 pts, 5/8 shooting, 6 rebs in 21 min) more than held his own against Gay (13 pts, 6/15 fg, 8 rebs, 5 ast).