News/notes after the jump...
We're Going Streaking!
The Grizz have followed a seven game losing streak by winning three straight (Wolves, Clips, @Sixers), though like the Bucks their successes have largely come at the expense of the NBA's lesser lights. The Bucks bring their own modest two game streak into Memphis, having finished their six game homestand just a Dirk Nowitzki OT buzzer-beater away from a perfect six-for-six.
No doubt the Bucks' 7-3 record is an encouraging sign for a team predicted by many to finish at the bottom of the East, but the next week on the road will provide something of a gut-check. Thanks to their home-heavy schedule, the Bucks have had the easiest schedule in the league by at least one measure, though Memphis has only had it slightly worse. As far as road trips go, this one isn't particularly daunting--San Antonio is the only team that's particularly scary on paper, especially with the Hornets missing Chris Paul--but the Bucks
Premium Gasol Hasheem Thabeet is a long way from being a polished product, but the way Marc Gasol is playing you wonder why the Grizzlies felt the need to spend a second overall pick on a high risk center in the first place. After a very solid first year in the NBA, the soon-to-be 25 year old is putting up 15/11 on 60% shooting from the field while also swatting nearly two shots per game. He'll be a free agent in 2011, so the Grizz will have an interesting decision to make about their center position at that point.
Gasol's beastly abilities down low spell big problems for the Bucks, who are getting used to life without Andrew Bogut at the moment. Gasol is a bear who draws a ton of fouls, which is especially problematic given Dan Gadzuric's problems with fouling and holding his position in the post. Kurt Thomas might not be big, but his savvy as a post defender could earn him lots of minutes tonight, especially given the Grizz also have Zach Randolph's size at the 4.
Run & Gun
Even with a couple big bodies at the 4/5, the Grizzlies have played at a pretty fast pace, which is less surprising when you look at the guys they have at the 1-3 spots. Rudy Gay has upped his game a bit, perhaps not surprising with a new contract at stake. But the young backcourt has been a bit disappointing, with Mike Conley putting up the worst numbers of his career and O.J. Mayo looking solid but mostly unchanged from a good rookie year.
Considering the Bucks will be sans post presence and largely relying on Brandon Jennings to once again be their catalyst, all signs point to the Bucks preferring a fast pace. Lou Williams smoked Conley and Marcus Williams last night to the tune of 31 points, and the Bucks probably need about as much from Jennings tonight. Milwaukee managed to hold off the Bobs while playing at Charlotte's preferred crawl last night, but generally speaking the Bucks don't have the shot-creators right now needed to play at a deliberate pace.
In general it will be interesting to see how much Lionel Hollins goes small. You have to think the Bucks will try to take advantage of Randolph in P&R situations against Jennings/Ilyasova, but the Bucks could have a hell of a time keeping Memphis off the offensive glass when they stay big. The Grizz rank 1st in offensive rebound rate, and while the Bucks ranked 3rd in defensive rebound rate they're missing Bogut and likely Mbah a Moute as well.
Hakim Warrick has struggled with his finishing all year, but his willingness take it to the cup and draw fouls was a welcome sight last night. Against his old team he'll be asked to again shoulder a fair bit of the scoring load, and should see his number called plenty. It's tough to imagine Randolph being able to keep up with Warrick's quickness, but it doesn't seem like Warrick has the beef to hang with Randolph on the block either.