Preview: Grizzlies vs. Bucks
The Grizzlies will welcome the Milwaukee Bucks to FedExForum tonight as they tipoff a three-game home stand before the All-Star break. The Grizzlies are looking to create momentum as they head into the break, and to do so, they’ll need to take care of business against a Milwaukee team that is well below .500, but still in the hunt for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. The Grizzlies overtime win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday was as gutty of a win as you’ll find from a team. Without Rudy Gay (sprained toe, right foot) and O.J. Mayo (league suspension) the Grizzlies were able to overcome a double digit deficit in the second half to come away with a win. Tony Allen stepped up in a big way as the Grizzlies found a way to win despite the circumstances. They’ll need to continue to find ways to win games as they continue to push for the postseason. The last time the Grizzlies met the Bucks it was part of probably their best stretch of basketball of the season that saw them win six of seven contests, which included a 3-1 road trip out East. The Grizzlies dispensed of Milwaukee 94-81 at the Bradley Center on Jan. 22 and will looking to do the same tonight at home, but the Bucks are a dangerous team right now. With the experience of last season’s playoff run and the return of Brandon Jennings to their lineup, Milwaukee has the ability to get hot at any time. The Bucks got hot at the right time last season and road a wave of momentum to the playoffs. The Grizzlies need to be sure that they don’t allow the Bucks to get going tonight. The Grizzlies will need to get big performances out of their frontline, as their power players dominated the contest the last time these two teams met. The Grizzlies frontline outscored Milwaukee’s 51-34 and out rebounded their counterparts 34-19. If the Grizzlies can get a similar performance out of their frontline tonight and prevent Jennings from putting together an electric performance it should give the Grizzlies a good opportunity to come away with a victory.
Here are a few things to watch for in tonight’s game…
The members of Grizz Nation were holding their breath on Tuesday night when Zach Randolph went to the scorer’s table with an apparent leg injury late in the contest against the Oklahoma City Thunder. They weren’t able to exhale until he returned to the floor after leaving the lineup momentarily. With Rudy Gay already out because of a sprained toe, right foot, the prospect of the team’s top two leading scorers being out of the lineup because of injuries is not something that anyone associated with the Grizzlies wanted to even consider. Randolph ultimately returned to the lineup to help the Grizzlies win the contest, but his status, along with Gay’s, is officially day-to-day with a sprained ankle. Randolph did not practice yesterday, while Gay was in practice gear but did not fully participate. In the chase for one of the final postseason spots in the Western Conference the Grizzlies can’t afford for their core group to lose anymore time. Everything seems to be in place for the Grizzlies’ first postseason appearance since 2005-06. For a team that has been splendidly healthy for the most part over the past few seasons, the only thing that could derail their progress would be an injury to one of their core players. Hopefully injuries like the ones Randolph and Gay are dealing with now are as serious as it gets for the rest of the season for Memphis.
Matchup of the night:
Two of the best centers in basketball will hit the floor tonight, as Marc Gasol is set to matchup against Andrew Bogut. Both near All-Stars, Gasol and Bogut provide similar attributes to their team. The Grizzlies and Bucks can both run their offenses through them and they can take over a game at any point with their basketball acumen. The last time they met Gasol scored a season-high 24 points to go along with 16 rebounds. He can expect Bogut to be looking for payback tonight.
Stat of the night:
The Grizzlies have played 30 road games so far this season, T-1st in the NBA. That means that 17 of Memphis’ remaining 28 games will be played at home, where the team is already 16-8. Memphis will play no more than two consecutive games on the road for the rest of 2010-11.