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Milwaukee vs. Memphis: Bucks Grit Past Grizzlies for Third Straight Win

Milwaukee outlasts a hot-shooting Memphis team to move above .500

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Memphis Grizzlies still have plenty of grit, but they couldn’t quite grind out a win as the Milwaukee Bucks were able to topple David Fizdale’s club, 110-103 for their third straight win. Milwaukee started the game off hot as a Usinger’s sausage, finishing out the first quarter ahead by five behind a perfect 6-6 performance from behind the arc. Khris Middleton finally found his stroke by nailing three of those from deep. The second quarter saw a reversal of fortune, with the Grizzlies bombing away to end the half with their own five point lead, 65-60, due to a 60.5% shooting performance.

The Bucks bounced back in the third to take an eight point lead as they headed into the final stanza of the night. The Grizzlies pulled ahead again early in the fourth, but Milwaukee’s group managed to slam home enough baskets to eek this one out over a quality Western Conference opponent. Milwaukee’s 54.5% percentage on 22 threes tonight were a huge help as the Grizzlies were able to knock home 11 of their own.

Three Main Observations

Milwaukee staked a five point lead in the first behind a Bowser-hot shooting performance, but not necessarily the kind of defense that’s been helping them claim victory. That bit their butt in the second, with the Grizzlies probing and passing their way to a stellar offensive showing that finished with a 143.8 offensive rating through two quarters. Milwaukee forced enough turnovers (six) to help mitigate some of that damage. The improved defensive rating they’ve flashed didn’t show up tonight though, but they still managed to get stops down the stretch, particularly at the rim, to help pull this one out.

Middleton had it going tonight, Milwaukee probably should have even gone to him even more. He was perfect from deep in the first, but only had six shot attempts at half. He started the second by pulling up for a running jumper and hit nothing but net. If he’s able to finally get off his schneid it will be an impressive boon to Milwaukee’s already improving offense. His clutch three down the stretch was much-needed to keep the Bucks ahead and I was curious whether serving as less of a primary ball handler may open up his shooting again. He still took plenty of tough shots tonight, but found a nice balance between that and settling on the perimeter.

Milwaukee’s entire arsenal was on display down the stretch in the fourth. This teeter-totter game led the Grizz to take back some momentum with around six left in the fourth, but a tough bucket by Middleton sparked an 11-2 run. Giannis slammed home an alley-oop, Giannis got a close quarters feed from Henson and spit it over to Snell in the corner for a three and then Bledsoe used his athleticism to attack an unsuspecting Grizzlies D early in the shot clock (a rarity for Milwaukee outside Giannis) and got an easy-looking reverse slam. Having a number of weapons to turn to down the stretch is a breezy change of pace for the Bucks.

Bonus Bucks Bits

  • John Henson’s passing continues to be the most curious delight of this early season. Yes, he remains a frustrating player in most facets of the game, but he’s shown a surprisingly adept ability at operating out of the high post with nifty bounce passes. Tonight, he caught the ball in the paint off a feed, pivoted and Stafford side-armed a slingshot pass to Eric Bledsoe in the opposite corner for a nothing but netter. Henson also had a fine performance on the evening with 17 points, nine rebounds and three assists.
  • Malcolm Brogdon came off the bench before Delly tonight, which was not the case during Bledsoe’s first two games with Milwaukee. He made the most of his early time as a ball handler when Giannis exited the floor too, taking Chandler Parsons off the dribble with some pound it out ball before a ballerina spin and near miss kissing it off the glass. It was a nice page from the playbook of Giannis. They went back to that mismatch to end the first and he smacked home a three-pointer that made Parson’s pretty boy face look positively befuddled.
  • Giannis measuring out his footsteps before turning someone’s shot into Cyber Dust is one of the most pleasing parts of his God-like game at the moment. He did it tonight to James Ennis III in transition and followed it up by feeding Middleton for a 3-point stroke on the other end.
  • Kidd went with a Bledsoe-Liggins-Snell-Giannis-Henson lineup midway through the second that feels a little ill-constructed. It has its defensive benefits for sure with plenty of “get after it” perimeter guys, but the lack of shooting on the court mucks up any potential for spacing on Giannis drives. I appreciate Liggins full-court pressure, but his offensive benefits leave me wanting. His hot-shooting of late has mitigated some of that, but his defender gets about as close as the narrator gets to the Grinch.
  • Bledsoe’s speed was evident on a recovery he made defensively late in the second to blitz toward a waiting Marc Gasol at the top of the arc as Thon Maker helped over. He apparated there so quickly, it forced Chalmers to think twice and travel with the ball. Even if he doesn’t always get the steal, his mere presence offers a far different dynamic than the slow-jazz stylings of Delly.
  • Memphis started the game 10-10 from the free throw line with Milwaukee just 2-3, but that evened out by halftime with Milwaukee reaching 14 total attempts and eclipsing Memphis who had 13.
  • Malcolm Brogdon playing just eight minutes in the first half was puzzling, particularly when Eric Bledsoe was apparently dealing with a knee problem. Even more quizzical was the eye-popping 10 minutes for Deandre Liggins, who is fine, but Brogdon also had 10 points and was a plus-three during his time on the court. He looked effective and even had an isolation ran for him as the first quarter expired. He finished just 4-11, but it doesn’t make sense to me for him to be playing two less minutes than Liggins for an entire contest.
  • Memphis did an admirable job on Giannis tonight in the post. Their fleet of tweener 3s and 4s were a bevy of arms for Giannis to navigate, and surprisingly the rookie Dillon Brooks seemed like the most man for the job. Even Chandler Parsons performed admirably keeping him from getting to his spot down low, at least as much as one can against his overwhelming might.