Something about the Memphis Grizzlies, coach and play style be damned, always seems to lend itself to a gritty game and this one was no exception, even as the Milwaukee Bucks delivered a 127-114 win. The Bucks controlled the first quarter for the most part, only leading by six after a late triple from Dillon Brooks rattled in to make it 35-29. Memphis came clawing back in the second behind some streak 3-point shooting, but a deeeep George Hill triple gave Milwaukee a 64-62 lead at half.
Jaren Jackson Jr. closed his eyes and prayed, frequently getting positive answers from the basketball gods in the third as Memphis went ahead 95-90 after three. Giannis answered back in a big way in the fourth quarter, nailing two triples and propelling himself into the paint repeatedly to close it out.
Eric Bledsoe left tonight’s game with a right shin contusion after a collision with Wesley Matthews. No word yet on how serious it is, but there is this exchange:
Asked Eric Bledsoe how his shin is doing after the collision in the 3rd.— Matt Velazquez (@Matt_Velazquez) December 14, 2019
Bled: “It’s cool.”
Me: “It’s fine?”
Bled: “I’m good.”
Me: “I remember Khris telling us he was fine then missing like two weeks.”
Bled: “I know. ... Khris a little baby, though.”
Jaren Jackson Jr. is One Streaky Cat
We knew it last year after some impressive defense from the youngster against Giannis Antetokounmpo, but my word did he give the entire team trouble in this one. He was more than willing to keep his hands up and clearly display to the refs that Lopez and Giannis were hooking him to get to teh basket, drawing plenty of offensive foul calls. More importantly though, he was absolutely unconscious from deep in this one, including 26 points in the third alone. Just an insane performance from him to propel Memphis ahead, even better in that it probably enraged Giannis to watch it helplessly from the bench.
To start the fourth, Bud opted to get his entire defense switching. After just a few minutes, Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins had to pause, call a timeout and address the different look for his young team. Not only did it help slow down the GRizzlies shooters from getting as many free looks with Bucks defenders getting caught fighting through screens, but it led to some jumping through passing lanes and disrupted Memphis’ rhythm. It wasn’t until the Grizzlies caught Matthews guarding JJJ in the post that Memphis was able to really punish the switch properly.
It was quiet minutes, but with Bud option to keep Ersan Ilyasova on the shelf for this back-to-back, D.J. Wilson quietly filled in well. He ended with 11 points and four rebounds. Beyond that, his solid box-out work and defense gave good frontcourt minutes when Robin Lopez became essentially unplayable in the second half vs. Memphis nimble frontline. A couple standout developmental observations:
In the second, D.J. Wilson snagged a pocket pass on the roll from Bledsoe and had three Grizzlies converge on him, but he couldn’t quite find a way to get a shot up as he got fouled. Immediately afterwards, they ran another pick-and-roll after inbounding the ball and he caught it before skying above his defender and kicking to Wesley Matthews in the corner. Slick job by him using what was available rather than potentially turning it over while forcing it up. In the second half, he did his best to try and slow down JJJ inside and had a key tip-in during the height of Memphis’ shooting streak hotter than their local chicken.
Bonus Bucks Bits
Strangely, I’ve grown fond of Khris Middleton’s funky midrange game this season in contrast to the pace-and-spray play of the Milwaukee Bucks, but his pull-up jumper from beyond the arc in a dude’s face remains my favorite shot aesthetically of his with the slight lean forward and the defender feebly turning his head to see the swish. I quite enjoyed his first quarter shot of this variety cramming it in Crowder’s grill.
This was insanely patient footwork, his stepthroughs are just so deadly. Especially when he’s able to pick up the pivot foot a bit...
D.J. Wilson got first quarter spot minutes and delivered early, splashing a corner triple and working a beautiful two-man game with Donte as he creeped along the baseline past unsuspecting Grizz defenders for a lay-in. Pretty stuff by the two young’uns.
Brilliant example of Giannis’ 3-point shot helping the Bucks in transition in the second. After a stop on a Brooks layup attempt, Giannis was trailing in transition as Eric Bledsoe screamed towards the hoop. Bledsoe drew all the attention, while Giannis was camped near the arc, forcing his defender to stick somewhat close to him. When Bledsoe found trouble, Giannis readied himself for a cut past his flat-footed defender and through a disjointed Grizzlies defense.
We missed this going to break, but sounds like Wesley Matthews wasn’t all too happy here. To add insult to injury, on the other side of the break, he crossed up Brooks to send him on his knees, then missed the shot, only to have Brooks splash one on the other end.
Matthews thought the screen was wide/and the screener wasn't set. Ref Rodney Mott disagreed. Not Matthews' first disagreement with Mott tonight.— Matt Velazquez (@Matt_Velazquez) December 14, 2019
Matthews was called for a foul moments after not getting a call at the other end. Matthews inquired about it & Mott said he missed it. https://t.co/SKyZ7brNga
I’m not sure if there’s a stat that tracks “Superstar getting put on a poster,” but I gotta think Giannis would lead the category year-after-year. I love him for that. I guess Riley was thinking the same thing:
Nobody is allowed to give Giannis any sort of grief ever because he's one of, like, three players on the planet who never shies away from defending the rim even if he gets posterized— Riley Feldmann (@RileyFeldmann) December 14, 2019
The Grizzlies 49 3-point attempts was a season-high for a Bucks opponent, topping Houston’s 48 attempts in the season opener.
Did anyone else notice how easily it looked like Giannis picked up Bledsoe from the floor after his injury? It was like a feather getting swept up in the wind!
Bud used a coach’s challenge in this game on an offensive call against Giannis, but to no avail, forcing him to the bench with four fouls and over seven minutes left in the third.
Giannis got one of the weaker techs I’ve seen in awhile after jamming in Bruno Caboclo’s face, and jawing at him the entire way down the court. Probably turned his two years away into three...
He also finished +26 and completely took this game over for the fourth. My wife thanks him; she took the over.