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Recap: Griz 107, Bucks 102

Box Score / AP Recap / JS Recap

Watching his team sleepwalk their way to a 38-18 second quarter stomping at the hands of the frisky-but-not-all-that-good Grizzlies, Scott Skiles was clearly not amused.  After the Bucks put together a solid 20-16 first quarter lead, the Grizz started having their way with the Bucks in the second: Rudy Gay scored 12, Mike Conley made three triples, and Marc Gasol was busy establishing permanent residency at the free throw line (5/8 from the stripe).  This was not how you want to be eliminated from the playoff race.

Granted, Skiles never seems particularly pleased during games, but with his team playing shorthanded the past couple months he's had to temper his expectations a bit.  Though playing time has come and gone for certain guys--Keith Bogans and Malik Allen disappeared for a while as Skiles thankfully gave his younger guys more burn--he's mostly avoided benching players to send a message.

Lest we forget that Skiles doesn't tolerate poor efforts, check out this gem of a lineup he started the second half against: Luke Ridnour, Charlie Bell, Luc Mbah a Moute, Malik Allen, and Dan Gadzuric.  Notably absent: Charlie Villanueva, Ramon Sessions, and Richard Jefferson.  Is that the least talented lineup to start a half in the NBA this season?  Quite possibly.

About six minutes later, Skiles felt his point was made.  If I felt this game meant something I might have been more frustrated with the situation, but given the circumstances you almost had to laugh (almost).  Though his scrub lineup had allowed Memphis to increase their lead from 16 to 19, Skiles also seemed to light a bit of a fire under his starters, at least Sessions.  The Bucks immediately reeled off a 14-2 run to make it a game, but the Grizzlies have been playing well lately and showed enough composure to keep the Bucks at arm's length the rest of the way. Gay (26 on 17 shots), Gasol (19/10) and Conley (17/9/6) were all big for Memphis, which is all of a sudden looking very solid under the guidance of former Bucks assistant Lionel Hollins.

Three Bucks

  • Charlie Bell.  Bell was the only Buck who didn't need a benching to light a bit of a fire under him, putting together his best line of the season with 23 (7/12 fg, 5/8 threes), eight boards, and five assists in 41 minutes.  He also deserves some credit for hounding O.J. Mayo into a 3/10 shooting night (12 pts, seven dimes too).  Normally Bell's effort on defense often isn't enough because he's playing guys who are bigger or simply too talented, but tonight he got results on both ends.
  • Ramon Sessions.  I didn't think Sessions had played that poorly when Skiles yanked him along with Villanueva, Mbah a Moute and Jefferson at the 2:15 mark of the second quarter.  He had missed a couple jumpers and had only scored two points, but benching Sessions for Damon Jones helped Conley get open for three triples in the final two minutes of the quarter as Memphis stretched their lead from 11 to 16 at the half.

    Either way, Sessions came out looking more focused when he finally re-entered midway through the third.  Attacking the hoop, and even hitting a couple jumpers, Sessions led the Bucks on a 14-2 run that trimmed the Grizz lead back into single digits.  All told he scored 14 (6/7 fg) to go with seven assists and a +14 differential in the final 19 minutes.  In comparison, Conley scored just three along with three assists in the same span, but he did enough early on that it didn't matter.
  • Richard Jefferson.  After being benched along with Sessions and company late in the second, Jefferson didn't return until the 2:17 mark of the third.  But like Sessions he responded well with 17 points (5/7 fg, 7/7 fg) in the game's final 14 minutes.  If only he had been able to better contain Gay in the second quarter...

Three Numbers

  • 4.  Conley came into the league with a couple big question marks: his size and his shooting ability.  The latter wasn't a problem, as he stroked 4/6 from deep including three of three in the second quarter as the Grizz built their big halftime lead. 
  • -13. Rebounding and the foul line have become consistent areas of concern for the Bucks, and tonight they suffered in both areas.  After dominating the boards when the teams played in Memphis, the Bucks were outrebounded 41-28 tonight while
  • 28.  One area the Bucks continue to do well?  Sharing the basketball.  While Jefferson and Villanueva still get isolation plays from time to time, the Bucks for the most part have no choice but to play unselfishly in order to get quality shots.  After their 28 dimes tonight they have now averaged 27 apg the past four games compared to a season average of 21.6.

Three Good

  • Three quarters.  Usually winning three quarters will win you a basketball game, and the Bucks did so with +4, +7, and +4 margins in the first, third, and fourth quarters, respectively.  Now about that second quarter...
  • Dimin'.  The Bucks continue to pass as noted above, led by Sessions who's now register three consecutive double-digit assist games (12.3 apg in that span). 
  • Bogut.  Bogut is done for the season but fortunately his back injury seems to be progressing well.  There's always next year...

Three Bad

  • Q2.  38-18.  Enough said.
  • Fight.  A healthy Memphis team is more talented than the current Bucks squad, but it's still frustrating to see them finishing the year strong while the Bucks fall apart.  It's not like there's a lack of motivation for the guys remaining on the Bucks bench.
  • The bench.  It was unfortunate that Skiles had to use his bench to send a message tonight because they weren't very good.  But Skiles wasn't to be messed with. After he grew tired of both Sessions and Ridnour, he let Damon Jones play in the second quarter, for crying out loud (he did make a three at least).  Mbah a Moute and Bogans were both fine, but Allen, Alexander and Ridnour were just deadweight, each tallying a -13 rating or worse in limited burn.