For three quarters, the Milwaukee Bucks struggled to match the intensity of the Memphis Grizzlies; an NBA team possessed with the spirit of a 12th seed in the first round of the NCAA tournament that smells an upset in the final minutes.
Memphis has had injury woes that make the recent injury exception granted to the Milwaukee Bucks seem comical. With a group of D-League players, cast off veterans and guys looking to make the most of the opportunities they never expected, the Grizzlies led the Bucks by five heading into the fourth quarter.
Then the Bucks gave them a taste of their own medicine. Jason Kidd trotted out a lineup the Bucks haven’t used all season to start the quarter: Tyler Ennis, Rashad Vaughn, Damien Inglis, Miles Plumlee and John Henson. A week ago that lineup was Kidd emptying his bench at the end of a game. Thursday night these guys ended the game … after playing the entire quarter and leading the Bucks to a 10 point win.
It was an incredible fourth quarter. The bench bunch began the quarter with five consecutive stops that helped turn Memphis’s five-point lead into a one-point deficit. Milwaukee forced six turnovers and blocked eight (!!) shots in the fourth quarter. Inglis played with poise and showed off his unselfishness and defensive chops en route to four points, four rebounds, two assists and two blocks in the quarter. Ennis scored 13 points by getting to the basket and finishing with regularity. Henson picked up a flagrant foul for tossing Lance Stephenson to the ground and was ejected following his celebratory taunting of Matt Barnes after a blocked layup with six seconds to go.
Henson’s ejection was quite a scene. Obviously fired up after his interaction with Stephenson, Henson stared down Barnes and walked away into the tunnel, keeping a look on his face after Barnes began approaching him. He then walked towards his teammates to celebrate the moment with his teammates before referees ejected him. As Henson made his way back to the locker room, he raised both arms and basked in the cheers of Bucks fans who were eating up everything Henson was serving out. Henson then launched his jersey into the crowd before disappearing into the locker room. Not long after Henson was gone, Barnes jogged towards the locker room himself, where he may or may not have attempted to confront Henson.
It was a scene and a fitting cap on an emotional night. Yes, the Bucks beat a team that didn’t have the majority of its best players. The Grizzlies are hurting, and Xavier Mumford was the 18th different player to make an appearance for the Grizzlies when he debuted for them last night. But Milwaukee’s young bench players haven’t had much to celebrate this season. Watching them emerge, even against competition that wasn’t very strong, was exciting.
We’ve seen the big three blossom since the All-Star break, to the point where we’ve almost gotten used to it and are banking on it. A surprising development out of the Bucks bench was a nice change of pace.
|J. Parker 28 MIN | 3-11 FG | 0-1 3FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | -8 +/-
He wasn’t as impactful as he’s been of late on offense and had his typical struggles on defense. The catch and drives that have been working so well for him of late didn’t present themselves the way they usually do, and he couldn’t counter a lack of those opportunities with a jumper.
|G. Antetokounmpo 30 MIN | 6-9 FG | 0-1 3FG | 3-4 FT | 6 REB | 11 AST | 1 STL | 3 BLK | 3 TO | 15 PTS | -1 +/-
Of all the Bucks starters, Giannis played the best and seemed most comfortable and engaged. But even Giannis didn’t have his usual best stuff. While the numbers were there, it didn’t feel like he was able to get the Bucks going or push the ball up the court as often as he’s done lately. Without transition or pace, he still was able to operate efficiently in the half court, but the Bucks didn’t seem to have the same energy overall.
|G. Monroe 27 MIN | 5-6 FG | 0-0 3FG | 4-6 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 14 PTS | +1 +/-
Against a variety of low-level centers, Monroe was able to have his way offensively at times. But it was so obvious how little of an impact he makes defensively once Plumlee and Henson started getting active in the fourth quarter. Those two were flying around, blocking shots, deflecting passes and bothering every player who drove into the paint. Monroe can’t do any of that. Ever.
|J. Bayless 25 MIN | 3-8 FG | 2-4 3FG | 2-4 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | -1 +/-
As most starters were, Bayless was quiet. Milwaukee’s defense struggled badly early on, with guys failing to communicate and getting lost on switches. Bayless ran into these problems a couple of times, where he relied on teammates without success.
|K. Middleton 30 MIN | 4-13 FG | 2-6 3FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 10 PTS | -5 +/-
He seemed frustrated with the refs for a lot of the night and couldn’t get his jump shot going. Memphis is a strong, physical defensive team and they were staying in on Middleton. When his open jump shots aren’t falling, and he’s unable to get to the rim, it crushes his productivity.
|J. Henson 14 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 3FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 4 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | +19 +/-
He was everywhere defensively in the fourth quarter. He deserved the applause he received as he exited the game, not just for the antics and show, but for the way he moved. On one play he sprinted out from the paint to the corner to cut off a 3-point attempt before it was even launched.
|D. Inglis 22 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-2 3FG | 4-4 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | +11 +/-
In his first real minutes of his career, Inglis delivered a terrific performance. He was patient when he caught the ball and always looking to get his teammates a good look with his passes. Defensively he forced (an always willing) Lance Stephenson into some very tough fadeaway jumpers. Stephenson was killing the Bucks early on with elbow jumper after elbow jumper, but Inglis used his length and size to make those very tough.
|M. Plumlee 21 MIN | 4-5 FG | 0-0 3FG | 1-2 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 3 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | +9 +/-
The Plumlee/Henson pairing worked wonders. Both players have mobility and can kind of stick with guys 10-feet from the hope due to their length and quicker feet. They are redundant on offense, but having them set screens on either side of Tyler Ennis’s man did seem to free him up to get into the paint and cause some havoc.
|T. Ennis 23 MIN | 6-10 FG | 0-0 3FG | 1-1 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 13 PTS | +11 +/-
Nine of his ten fourth quarter shots came in the paint. He banked in a short jumper. He made multiple tough, twisting layups. He used screens incredibly effectively. Over the past three or four games, Ennis is starting to show that he can get to the rim and be a little bit creative with his finishes. At one point, it was very unclear what he did well. We’re finally starting to see where he can be successful now that he’s getting more minutes. Fun!
|R. Vaughn 21 MIN | 2-6 FG | 1-4 3FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 5 PTS | +14 +/-
Even Vaughn got in on the fourth quarter fun with a 3-pointer and a short jumper. Earlier in the game, he also attempted a monster dunk over Ryan Hollins that hit the back of the rim and clanged out. But even the attempt was cool to see.