With an up-and-down series of seeding games nearly complete for the Milwaukee Bucks, they embark on their final competition before the Playoffs this Thursday afternoon, tipping off against the Memphis Grizzlies at 3:00 pm central.
Given the small number of games, there sure has felt like an outsized number of storylines for the Milwaukee Bucks in the bubble. Between their lapses in crunch time, reintegrating Eric Bledsoe and Pat Connaughton, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s tooth snafu and more, there’s been plenty to chew on over the course of two weeks. The Bucks dispatched the hapless Washington Wizards 126-113 despite Giannis being ejected in the 2nd quarter for a headbutt at the always annoying Mo Wagner. That altercation led to a one-game suspension for Giannis, who will miss this Grizzlies game.
The NBA is suspending Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo for the Bucks’ final seeding game on Thursday for head bump on Wizards’ Mo Wagner, source tells ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 12, 2020
Brook Lopez carries the scoring load in Giannis’ absence against Washington with 24 points, as Bud gave Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe and Donte DiVincenzo the day off. With the number one seed well and wrapped up and the Bucks first round playoff matchup officially set against the Orlando Magic, this game means little to nothing for Milwaukee. It’s quite possible Bud opts to rest plenty of his primary players.
Ersan Ilyasova is listed as questionable and Wesley Matthews is out for this contest.
Player to Watch: Donte DiVincenzo
The Big Ragu hasn’t found his groove in the bubble, shooting poorly and occasionally looking passive offensively. Given his importance to this team’s guard rotation and his emergence before the COVID-19 pandemic, Bud is assuredly looking for the former Villanova Wildcat to find his rhythm before the games that really matter get underway. Hopefully he can feast on an average Memphis D to accomplish just that.
The Grizz entered the Bubble with a decent chance at securing the final spot in the West, a lead in the standings and a healthy Jaren Jackson Jr. to help Ja Morant take them there. Then things went awry. Fast. They’ve won just one game in the bubble, on top of losing Jackson Jr. to another injury. Portland has vaulted into the 8th seed thanks to those stumbles, and now the Grizz must hold on for their shot at a play-in game against Portland. The Suns are nipping at their heels having gone undefeated during their time in the bubble, while San Antonio is also tied with them for a shot at the final spot. Most recently, Memphis lost to the Boston Celtics, 122-107, despite 26 points and 13 assists from Morant.
In addition to JJJ, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow are also out.
Player to Watch: Ja Morant
With JJJ out, Ja has shouldered an even greater load of the Grizzlies offensive burden. He’s performed admirably in that role all year, but the lack of firepower around him has sunk the Grizzlies into the predicament they now find themselves. Still, his electric style is always enjoyable and we’ll get to see plenty of it as he tries to ensure his team remains in the Playoff hunt.