The Bucks and Grizzlies roll into their Saturday night matchup in Milwaukee with matching 4-4 records, though how good these teams really are remains — as with many things at this stage of the season — highly debatable. The Bucks have faced the easiest schedule in the NBA to date, losing back-to-back games to winless teams, while the Grizzlies have played six of their eight games at home, are winless away from FedEx Forum and have faced the second-easiest schedule thus far.
The high of a three-game win streak was disrupted this week by the low of back-to-back losses to the winless Mavs and Pelicans, leaving us to ponder just what kind of team this is going to be. They play best when they attempt a bunch of threes and push the tempo, but they haven’t done either with much consistency. The Bucks have won their three fastest pace games (in New Orleans and at home against the Nets and Pacers) while losing four of their five slowest. Oddly, the blowout win over the Kings was the slowest game of the year — but also their best in terms of three made and attempted (14-of-33).
"We can't relax. We have to stay the aggressors." pic.twitter.com/esOJcAnOK0— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) November 12, 2016
On the plus side, the Bucks’ young stars have been carrying the load, with Giannis Antetokounmpo starting fast and Jabari Parker coming on over the past two weeks. Parker dominated the Pelicans to the tune of 33 points and nine rebounds, raising his season average to 19.5 points on 57% true shooting, including a pinch-me-if-this-is-real 42% from three and 90% from the free throw line. Both figures will almost certainly regress, but it’s an especially encouraging sign given Antetokounmpo’s continued inconsistency on jumpers. Perhaps predictably, #BaselineBari’s success as a shooter has come from the corners, where he’s an excellent 5/6 on threes and also deadly from midrange:
The Grizz roll into town well rested after completing a 2-2 homestand on Tuesday, though they could have just as easily been 4-0 or 0-4. The most recently edged the Nuggets 108-107, snapping a two game skid that included narrow losses to the Clippers (by a single point) and Blazers (by six). And prior to that? An overtime win over the pesky Pelicans.
The Grizzlies’ core of Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, and Zach Randolph remains intact, though this isn’t exactly the team we’ve gotten used to seeing over the past five years. New coach David Fizdale has moved Randolph to the bench in favor of the younger and more mobile JaMychal Green, while stylistically the three ball is suddenly a priority in Memphis. The Grizz are making and attempting 40% more triples than last season, largely mirroring the bump we’ve seen in Milwaukee (where threes are up 47% and attempts 56%). The most notable change has been in Gasol’s shot selection, as he’s hit a career-best 9-of-25 (36%) from three — not bad for a career 23% shooter with just 66 attempts in eight prior seasons.
Defensively, the Grizz have been good-but-not-great, ranking 11th overall including fourth in turnovers forced and ninth in defensive rebound rate. Defensive stalwart Tony Allen is questionable with a groin injury while Conley has been playing through a sore hamstring. Chandler Parsons is also expected to start, though coming off knee surgery he’s yet to make much of any impact — just 9 points in 43 minutes thus far. Oh by the way: the Grizz gave him $94 million this summer.