With the final game before the All-Star Break upon us, the Milwaukee Bucks are closing out the first half against the Memphis Grizzlies. It’s their first matchup of the season together, and the Bucks first road game since February 14 when the Oklahoma City Thunder pummeled them in Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Where We’re At
Well, we were feeling darn good about the Milwaukee Bucks until the Denver Nuggets stomped in and flattened every aspect of Bud’s defense last night for a 127-98 win. The Nuggets shot an uncharacteristically impressive figure at the rim, 75% on 22-29 shooting. Milwaukee had no answer from the midrange and could never string together enough stops to propel themselves back into the contest. Offensively, the threes weren’t falling, going 11-40 (27.5%) is never a great recipe for success. There were some impressive moments of ineptitude from Donte DiVincenzo in particular. Not to pick on the guy, but he blew a wide open dunk in transition and could barely find a way to get the ball to the rim when planted beneath the basket. It spoiled a 27-point effort from Giannis, who was able to find his way to the rim at will, but he wasn’t enough to keep the Bucks in it as Joker went for 37 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists.
Memphis, headed by former Bucks assistant Taylor Jenkins, are in the thick of the Play-in tournament race. They’re right around the group with Denver, Golden State and Dallas vying for that position, and Memphis is fresh off two convincing victories against the dregs of each conference. After beating the Houston Rockets by 49, they took down the Wizards 125-111. Ja Morant went for 35 with 10 assists and De’Anthony Melton tacked on 20 of his own. Memphis has risen to a top ten defense this season, and done so while turning teams over at the highest percentage in the league, per Cleaning The Glass. Milwaukee is normally stingy with the ball (6th lowest TOV%), so that may neuter one of their advantages. Conversely, the Bucks’ league best opponent FT percentage shouldn’t matter in this one, the Grizz get to the line at the lowest rate in the league.
Memphis has scraped together a league-average offense even without some of its key pieces this season, but they also have a bottom-five percentage of shots from three. They live in the midrange and short midrange (4-14 feet from basket) area. Look for a lot of floaters and pull-ups there. It could be a long night for drop coverage if those buckets are falling like they did for Denver.
Milwaukee is only missing Jordan Nwora and recent call-up Mamadi Diakite, who must pass through the health and safety protocols. Memphis is without Jaren Jackson Jr. and Grayson Allen.
Player to Watch
De’Anthony Melton, if for no other reason than I rarely ever watch Grizzlies games but I’ve always been intrigued by him. Even dating back to his draft days, his impressive length and defensive skills seemed like the selling points. He was someone I hoped might land with the Bucks. He’s turned into a fairly solid offensive player while in the big leagues, averaging 10 points, three assists and a steal per game. His 41.3% from deep on 3.9 attempts this season feels like it’s probably an aberration given his career 32.3% mark, but season-long aberrations don’t really matter on a night-to-night basis, and Melton’s been consistently able to hit balls from deep as a backup.
Game 36: Against the Grizzlies, Milwaukee will...
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