Grizzlies update. Already playing without Tony Allen and Quincy Pondexter, the Grizzlies suffered another blow to their backcourt depth last night when Mike Conley went down with a bad-looking ankle injury. Conley narrowly missed out on his first all-star appearance earlier this week, but that shouldn't diminish the critical role he plays in quarterbacking a Memphis team that has won five in a row and 10 of their last 11 games. The hot streak has helped Memphis pull to within a half game of Dallas for the final playoff spot in the über-competitive West, with Phoenix and Golden State a further 2.5 games ahead. In other words, winning the West might earn the Thunder or Spurs a first round date with the Warriors or Grizzlies.
Conley leads Memphis with a career-best 18.0 ppg and 6.3 apg, and his efficiency metrics have also made the leap from above-average to all-star caliber: 21.3 PER, 0.177 WS/48, 55.4% true shooting. But while the Grizzlies could rely on their frontcourt depth during Marc Gasol's 23-game absence earlier this season, they don't have the same luxury at the point. Having already dealt Jerryd Bayless to the Celtics for Courtney Lee in December, the Grizz have just Nick Calathes (7.6 PER, 45.2% true shooting) and D-League signing Seth Curry left at the point, so the Bucks will need Brandon Knight and company to take advantage of Memphis' depth problems if they're going to have any chance of springing an upset.
D up. So what's suddenly been going right for the Grizzlies? Not surprisingly the magic has been happening on the defensive end, where they're allowing around 8 fewer pts/100 possessions over the last 10 games compared to their season average. It's the kind of defense we've come to expect from Memphis over the last couple seasons, though even with their recent hot streak they've only managed the 17th-best defense over the first 45 games of the season.
Gasol's return last month from a 23-game absence presumably is the biggest part of that story, though he was held scoreless and generally wasn't much of a factor when the Grizzlies held off the Bucks at the Bradley Center a couple weeks ago. Ed Davis and Kosta Koufos were a different story in that game, providing major energy off the bench as the Grizzlies weathered a 27-point effort from Knight and the Bucks could do no better than a Larry Sanders three on their final possession of Memphis' 82-77 win.
Matchups. Larry Drew went with his 20th different lineup last night in Orlando, throwing Nate Wolters into the backcourt mix at the expense of Giannis Antetokounmpo, who came off the bench for the first time in 21 games. No word as of yet as to whether the Bucks will go with the same group tonight, though the absence of John Henson (hand/wrist) for at least one more game means Larry Sanders (looking friskier of late) and Ersan Ilyasova (still firing blanks) will start up front regardless.
Wolters flirted with a triple-double last night (8 pts, 7 rebs, 9 ast, 0 turnovers) but it's tough to say Drew's latest experiment worked per se. Hell, it's tough to say anything works for Drew anymore; his team just seems to have had its competitive spirit crushed under the weight of its miserable record, though it's not to say he won't continue to search for combinations that show something resembling a pulse on the court. Still, Wolters' ability to get into the paint and work the P&R is something the Bucks could use more of, so hopefully Drew's decision to play him ahead of Luke Ridnour last night will be the start of a trend.
Caron Butler led the Bucks with 20 points and Giannis piled up a nice line 15 points and 7 boards, though both guys did the vast majority of their work in second half garbage time. There's been too much of that lately, eh?
In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.