Well hey, after getting off to a season-tying low 10 point first quarter, this game could have gotten much, much uglier. The Bucks kept the remaining three quarters relatively close, so much so that they had a shot to send the game into overtime. Alas, the shot did not fall (more on that in a second), and the Bucks dropped their seventh game in a row while the Grizzlies won their fourth straight and got back to .500 on the season. Mike Conley and James Johnson each tallied 15 points and 5 assists to lead Memphis, while Brandon Knight had his jumper going en route to 27 points on 17 shots. Januempty continues to march on, folks.
The Bucks had the ball down three with 11 seconds remaining after Zach Randolph opted to shoot (and miss) rather than reset the offense following a Mike Conley miss and James Johnson's errant tip attempt. The Bucks were thus gifted another chance to send the game to an extra session, but their subsequent inbounds play collapsed when Ersan Ilyasova closed the elevator door (a two-person screen that the shooter runs through, after which the screeners come together and close off the trailing defender) too early and effectively picked Knight, leading to a less open catch of the ball...leading to a pass...leading to...yeah. You get the idea. Larry Sanders ending up shooting a three (however wide open) is a pretty painful end result, but the process of getting to that point was the most discouraging. Such has been the story this season, in a way.
A hot-shooting Knight was far and away the game's leading scorer with 27 points (on 10-17 shooting), accounting for over a third of the Bucks' total output as he played a bit more off the ball than we're used to seeing. Caron Butler and Larry Sanders finished with 10 points each, but on a combined 9-24 shooting. The Grizzlies protected the paint rather well and blocked an absurd amount of perimeter shots (10 total), and generally made things very uncomfortable for the Bucks offense (though that admittedly doesn't take a whole lot of effort. Sigh...).
Giannis Antetokounmpo, on his "Greek and Growing" poster night, struggled with foul trouble most of the night, ending up with six points in only 22 minutes played. Giannis is fantastic and tonight was about a lot more than just playing (he, along with fellow Greeks Kosta Koufos and Nick Calathes, met before the game to take a photo with the Greek flag), but when he gets especially excited for a game, he needs to corral his aggression and not pick up cheapy little fouls that limit his ability to impact the game. Example: a silly foul in the backcourt sent him to the bench with four fouls in the third period. It's something he'll definitely improve upon, but...well...we just want to see more and more Giannis is all. On the plus side, he returned in crunch time and contributed a steal/slam combo as well as a nice drive that earned him a pair of free throws.
Perhaps the most encouraging part of tonight's game other than not getting blown out was the (very slightly) larger sample size we got in the Henson/Sanders on-court pairing. The Bucks were 2.5 points/100 possessions better with them on the floor in their 15 minutes together and had a 97.0 offensive rating (meh) and 94.5 defensive (yum). Again, this is a very very small sample size, but HEY LET US BE KIND OF HAPPY ABOUT SOMETHING PLEASE. While Henson didn't score after halftime, he corralled 13 boards to match Ersan Ilyasova while Sanders collected 12 boards in addition to three blocks.
With Marc Gasol and Randolph completely ineffective (2/14 combined shooting, 9 total rebounds), the Bucks surprisingly beat the Grizzlies on the boards 51-43, but cold shooting and turnovers did the team in again. It's not so much about the numbers, but rather the timing of both. The Bucks had fought through their first shooting slump and actually had a 60-58 lead after three quarters, but proceeded to go ice cold to start the fourth. Once they got close again, costly turnovers and Memphis' strong bench play allowed the Grizzlies to maintain separation down the stretch. Even with Gasol and Randolph struggling, Ed Davis (7/8 fg, 14 pts, 9 rebs) and Koufos (4/7 fg, 10 pts) provided a major lift off the bench while Johnson made critical plays on both ends throughout. The Bucks were fortunate enough to have a shot at OT, but execution (or lack thereof) held them back enough as the final seconds ticked away and reduced them to a Sanders three as their last shot. Yeah, not good.
Time for some quick questions.
Hey, Did Gary Neal play tonight?
What about Nate Wolters?
Apparently. He played six minutes, I guess.
The Bucks head to Texas for a two game road trip against serious playoff contenders in the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs before returning home to face Brandon Jennings and the Detroit Pistons next Wednesday. Will the team still be mired in Januempty by then???