The Milwaukee Bucks are riding high, with six straight wins and a mound of mounting confidence after defeating the feisty Minnesota Timberwolves 102-95 on Saturday night. Their opponent tonight, the Memphis Grizzlies, are in some kind of funk, dropping their fifth straight after losing to the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday.
Milwaukee’s game against Minnesota played out like a well-mannered back-and-forth between both squads. Neither pulled appreciably ahead all night, and the Timberwolves kept clawing at the lead Milwaukee built. The Bucks featured seven different players in double digit scoring, led by Tony Snell, who racked home 4-7 shooting from deep to reach 19 points. Giannis reached 18 points, four rebounds and seven assists for the game.
Khris Middleton had his lowest scoring output (11) in seven games, but Milwaukee had plenty from other scorers on the night. Milwaukee’s recently resurgent defense held Minnesota in check most of the night, and while Karl-Anthony Towns may’ve gone off for 35, Andrew Wiggins was held to just 3-13 shooting and 11 points.
They haven’t faced Memphis since beating them 106-96 way back in early November. Giannis Antetokounmpo went off for 27 points in that game, assaulting the lack of speed Memphis has in the frontcourt. That victory came despite Vince Carter reaching into his ratty bag of tricks and exploding for 17 points.
Milwaukee has been possessing the ball incredibly well of late, turning it over below their season average in seven of the last eight games. Additionally, since the All-Star Break, Milwaukee’s been forcing opponents to a 17.4% turnover percentage, the highest in the league. That’s helped juice their overall standing in that metric up to third overall for the season, after ranking only ninth before the All-Star Break. Memphis turns the ball over at the fourth lowest rate in the league, so the Bucks will have to hope their recent active hands keep up tonight.
No word yet on whether Malcolm Brogdon or Mirza Teletovic will be out tonight or not.
Memphis lost to the Atlanta Hawks handily last weekend, 107-90, marking their fifth straight loss and dropping them to seventh in the Western Conference Playoff standings. Marc Gasol mustered only eight points on 3-11 shooting, and that cold streak extended to the whole team, who only shot 37.8% from the field and 5-29 from three.
Memphis hosts the league’s sixth stingiest defense, but their offensive efficiency hasn’t quite measured up, falling to just the 18th best in the league. They play at the league’s third slowest pace, grit n’ grindin’ their way down low through Zach Randolph off the bench and Marc Gasol working his passing magic to help manufacture space. Gasol has stretched his game considerably this year, attempting 3.7 threes per game and hitting 38.5% of them. Before this season, he had attempted only 66 threes total in his prior eight seasons. How Milwaukee’s bigs contain his in-between game will be key to controlling Memphis’ frontcourt.
Memphis posts up at by far the most frequent rate in the NBA, 12.0%. The next closest is Minnesota at 9.7%. Memphis vibes to its own beat, but they’ve still been able to score effectively despite their reliance on tactics no longer en vogue. Their .92 points per possession is tied for 11th-best in the league on post-ups, although they get free throws off those attempts at a bottom-ten rate. Regardless, this is yet another reason Monroe, Maker and Henson will have to work on Memphis’ paint patrolmen.
They attempt 26.1 3-pointers per game to complement that, good enough for 15th in the league. Milwaukee’s been keeping its opponent three-point attempts down, and that’s another useful trend that would behoove the Bucks to continue.
The Grizzlies’ only two absences are Wade Baldwin IV and Jarell Martin, both of whom are in the D-League at the moment.