GAME: Memphis Grizzlies at Milwaukee Bucks
Time: 7:30 pm CDT
PLACE: Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI
Records: Memphis (27-22), Minnesota (24-27)
Expected Starting Lineups:
Memphis – Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Rudy Gay, Marreese Speights, Marc Gasol
Milwaukee – Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, Ersan Ilyasova, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Drew Gooden
A game against a short-handed team where they should have jumped out to a big lead and then cruised afterwards. Instead, they came out flat and — with a little help from the officials…again — struggled to establish any semblance of an offensive or defensive rhythm, and they lost a game that they definitely should have won.
Headed to Milwaukee after that tough game in Houston last night that I’d rather not speak any more about. I always like games against the Bucks. You have the gritty style of Scott Skiles that is completely embodied in the play of Andrew Bogut. What’s that? Bogut is injured? Oh…and he was traded? For Monta Ellis?!? Skiles is still the coach, right? Well, at least that part hasn’t changed….yet. The Bucks took advantage of an injury to Kyrie Irving to demolish the Cavaliers in Cleveland last night, winning by nearly 40 points — because that’s what you do to a team that is shorthanded.
Memphis has dropped 7 of their last 11, and is headed into the toughest part of their schedule with last night being the first of 7 games in 9 nights (11 in 16, too). By the time mid-April is here, the Grizzlies could be in 3rd place or completely out of the playoffs altogether. If they hope to be closer to the former than the latter, then they are going to have to start playing with consistency, intensity, and fire every single night. In this truncated season, every game counts more and a team cannot afford to rely on a learning curve, no matter what issues they might be facing. The Boys from Beale Street absolutely must realize this and begin imposing their will on other teams, rather than letting them dictate the tempo of games. Otherwise, they are liable to find themselves on the outside looking in.
Milwaukee hasn’t played better or worse since their deadline deal that sent Bogut and Stephen Jackson out and brought Ellis, Epke Udoh and Kwame Brown in. They’ve beaten bad teams, lost to good teams, and surprised the Hawks. The backcourt pairing of Jennings and Ellis makes more sense than the duo of Stephen Curry and Ellis ever did with Golden State. Jennings — my pick for the 2nd best PG prospect in the 2009 draft — is an electrifying player who is capable of scoring 20+ points or dishing double-digit assists on any given night. If he and Ellis can click, then the Bucks could easily make up that 1.5 games they need to get back into the postseason picture.
To win, Memphis needs to pound the ball inside and get back to their “grit and grind” ways on defense. For the Bucks to win, they’ll need to create turnovers and get out in transition like the Rockets did last night.
Prediction: Memphis wins.