Digging a deeper hole: Grizzlies 89 – Bucks 86
Now that is how you make a run towards the eighth seed.
If you’re the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Milwaukee Bucks though, continued to slip and stumble towards an unsatisfying conclusion to a disappointing season with their 89-86 loss to the Grizzlies in Memphis Friday night. At least this one offered some variety.
Often spending the majority of games allowing the opposition build large leads at which Milwaukee must chip away, the Bucks did the opposite Friday. The Bucks built their lead up to as much as 11 points in the third quarter. Corey Maggette tallied the most points any Bucks player has scored in a quarter during that third, dropping 20 on the Grizzlies. Things … they looked good.
Then the fourth quarter happened.
And as has happened so many times before, Milwaukee’s offense collapsed. Milwaukee scored its first basket nearly three minutes into the quarter, and scored its second almost exactly four minutes later. Seven minutes, two baskets. Somehow they remained tied, but the opportunity for a comfortable win was long gone. Milwaukee was involved in a close game with a better team down the stretch. The results were predictable and the Bucks had lost again.
Two teams trying to sneak into the playoffs final spot. When it was all said and done, one looked capable of doing so and one looked ready for the off-season to start with two months to go. All the team meetings and health in the world can’t help the Bucks if they continue to close out games like that.
Maggette’s third quarter at least offered Bucks fans something enjoyable to watch for a while. The Bucks forward made six of nine shots in the quarter, including four of six three-point attempts. When Maggette’s able to make jump-shots, he can appear unstoppable at times offensively. His three-point shooting has really taken on a life of its own over the past two months. Maggette made two of four three-point attempts in December. Then nine of 27 in January and now has made six of 10 in February. Nearly all of his attempts have been catch and shoot. The threat that he’ll actually make open shots from three certainly can only help expand his offense and make him more of a threat. If he can harmoniously coexist with his teammates and continue to make shots, he could still be a positive for the Bucks over the next two years.
- Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings. The Bucks stars. The core pieces. You couldn’t tell that from their performances Friday. Bogut was just two of nine from the field against the burly batch of centers Memphis throws out there and Jennings struggled to make shots once again. His three-point shooting, a work in progress since he’s returned from a foot injury, was actually improved. He made three of seven from deep, but was just three of 10 from everywhere else. He had a costly turnover with the Bucks down five with just 26 seconds remaining was right in line with the Bucks play down the stretch.
- John Salmons had a game much more typical of the Salmons of last season. 18 points on five of 11 shooting with six assists and five rebounds. Salmons drive and kick game last season was effective because he was always a threat to pass out to shooters waiting to make shots. Milwaukee’s struggled with the making shots part of that equation this season. But the Bucks made 11 of 26 three-point attempts on Friday.
For the second game in a row, Milwaukee saw a more athletic team be, well, more athletic. The Grizzlies were able to create some easy buckets in transition and power home some baskets around the rim thanks to their athleticism. Tony Allen and Sam Young stood out on a number of occasions due to their sheer power and jumping ability. They finished in transition, put home dunks on offensive rebounds and competed on defense. Memphis scored 17 points on the fastbreak and 19 points off Milwaukee’s turnovers. That went a long way.
- Mike Conley’s contract extension from earlier this season has been ridiculed, but he looked worth it against a worthy adversary in Jennings on Friday. Conley made just eight of 19 shots, but was three of five on three-point attempts, dished out eight assists and grabbed three steals. He’s tough to deal with thanks to his physical skill and improving outside shot, but it was his quickness on defense that really stood out.
12 games below .500 with 29 games remaining. Milwaukee, by my math, which is pretty good, but not really, would have to finish 21-8 to be above .500 for the second year in a row. That’s not going to happen. According to John Hollinger’s Playoff Odds, they still have a 25% chance at the playoffs, but they are far from likely. Milwaukee had a real shot with a number of .500 teams lined up heading into the all-star break, but losses to the Pistons, Wizards and now Grizzlies have probably left them with too big of a hole to climb out of.
No matter how much practice they’ve had at that this season.