Recap: Grizzlies 99, Bucks 90 | Grit and Grind beats Grin and Bear it

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The Bucks had their first halftime lead in 2014 and a lead going into the third (!), but the Grizzlies were just too much and the Bucks provided too little in the fourth. The win was Memphis' sixth in a row and moved them percentage points ahead of Dallas for the final Western playoff spot, while the Bucks slumped to a sixth straight loss.

Box Score

This just in: losing does not feel any better when the game is closer.

After trailing the Bucks for most of the game and going into the fourth quarter with a two point lead, the Grizzlies decided it was annoying to be in a game this close, while the Bucks offense performed about as well as a muggle does trying to enter Platform 9 3/4 (hot reference alert!), and the result was again a painful loss. February feels a lot like January, with the Bucks dropping this one to Memphis 99-90, their sixth consecutive loss.

It was expected that the two beasts in Memphis' front court would have their way against Milwaukee's depleted bigs, and Marc Gasol (19p/6r) and Zach Randolph (23p/10r) didn't disappoint. Gasol kept the Grizzlies' offense afloat for most of the first three quarters, before Randolph took charge as he was getting some rest early in the fourth quarter, dominating Zaza Pachulia or whoever else tried to get a body on him. Those two players are very good and were very much key in the victory, but they can't beat the opponent by themselves unless a third party steps up. With point guard (and leading scorer and assist man) Mike Conley out with a sprained ankle, Nick Calathes filled in and had the game of his NBA life so far with 22p/5r/3a--in his first start of the year. It's hard enough for the Bucks to win when the other team's best guys are on their game, but it becomes near impossible to scratch out a win when role players and spot starters start having career nights on top of everything. Ah well.

The Bucks were led in scoring again by Brandon Knight (23p/7r/6a), who felt like the only person capable of making plays other than hoisting up contested long twos or threes in the second half. Ersan Ilyasova started the game out sizzling a little bit, but fizzled out and finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds, but on just 5-13 shooting. Khris Middleton had 12 points, Larry Sanders had 10 points, Caron Butler had 10 points, but none of it (including Knight) never felt reliable enough to believe that the Bucks were going to stick out the move made by Memphis early in the fourth.

Observations

  • Larry Sanders picked up his second foul and a technical in the second quarter when, after banging bodies with Marc Gasol in the post, had a little extracurricular tussle that got the refs' attention and technical call. After picking up a touchy third foul call, Sanders delivered his trademark ''thumbs up'' to the referees on his way to the bench, yet somehow managed to stay in the game after that gesture. To his credit though, Sanders didn't have another outburst like that, and kept himself legally allowed to enter the game. Hooray?
  • Zaza Pachulia returned to the rotation after being out more than a month and brought his usual level of physicali, but not necessarily productive, basketball. Pachulia drew the unfortunate task of trying to man Zach Randolph while Larry Sanders was out with some foul trouble, and not surprisingly, had difficulty doing so once Randolph got in a rhythm. Still, it's good to see him back and not lumbering around in a walking boot. He did look pretty dapper on the bench, though. Wait, what?
  • I'm pretty sure O.J. Mayo has a case of the bubonic plague or something. That illness sounds pretty awful if it means you miss this many games.
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo indirectly noted in a pre-game viewing of his dunk from last night that his legs were a little sore and tired, and that he could benefit from the All-Star break. Perhaps him hitting the wall over the last couple weeks can be largely attributed to some fatigue, as he's played more than anyone really expected him to. Giannis only had three points on three shots in just over 20 minutes, and really didn't have much success on imprinting his style on any part of the game. Still, he nearly delivered the play of the game in a one-on-one transition opportunity against James Johnson near the end of the first quarter, gyro-stepping past Johnson only to see his attempted dunk rattle out. The All-Star break can't get here soon enough, because a healthy and rested Giannis is the best Giannis.
  • Nate Wolters had one turnover. BURN IT DOWN. But seriously, Nate again had some bright moments early on, but didn't really keep that up throughout the game. Still, I think most folks are okay with seeing how this season plays out with Nate being a big part of the show going forward.
  • The Bucks will now head home, where they will play four of their last five games before the break. They host the New York Knicks on Monday.
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