The Memphis Grizzlies are getting healthy, winners of three straight and on the verge of returning to .500 for the first time in over a month.
After a trying December, the Grizzlies are 5-2 in the new year, and things are looking up as they head to Milwaukee on Wednesday night to take on the NBA-worst Bucks.
With Marc Gasol back in the lineup for the first time in seven weeks, the Grizzlies (18-19) completed a 3-1 homestand Tuesday with a 90-87 win over Oklahoma City. The big man scored 12 points in 24 minutes after missing 23 games with a sprained MCL. The Grizzlies went 10-13 without him and are 8-5 in games he's completed.
"I got the goose bumps for about a minute or two minutes," Gasol told the team's official website. "I felt like I was a rookie again, even better than that. Today was a special day for me, but we move on. Right now, we're thinking about Milwaukee."
Fellow post presence Zach Randolph had 23 points and 13 rebounds, while recently acquired Courtney Lee led the way with 24 points in his second start. He's averaging 19.5 points in two starts and 14.8 in four games since coming over from Boston on Jan. 7.
Backcourt mate Mike Conley added 19 points and is averaging 25.3 since the Lee acquisition, though the focus was on Gasol, last season's Defensive Player of the Year.
"Everybody is excited, especially for him," Conley said. "He's been itching to get out there forever, and I thought he did great. It gave us a good boost."
Memphis remains without guard Tony Allen, who has missed five straight games with a sprained left wrist.
Milwaukee (7-30) has lost six straight by an average of 15.5 points to start 2014 after Monday's 116-94 loss at Toronto.
"They played a much more physical game than we did and we just didn't respond to it," Bucks coach Larry Drew said.
Ersan Ilyasova scored a season-high 29 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while Brandon Knight added 16. Khris Middleton continued to struggle, scoring two points on 1-of-8 shooting. He's averaging 4.3 points on 17.2 percent shooting in three games despite averaging 11.1 for the season.
The Bucks got John Henson back in a limited role after he missed seven games with a sprained left ankle, but it didn't much matter as their shooting woes continued. They've shot 38.0 percent in their last four, averaging 82.8 points in that time.
"Coming into this game, one of the things we talked about was trying to control the tempo of the game," Drew said. "Right off the bat, first quarter, we had seven turnovers. I think they just about capitalized on every turnover that we had."
It doesn't get any easier with Memphis coming to town. The Grizzlies have won five straight against the Bucks, holding them to 36.9 percent shooting in two victories last season. Milwaukee is 1-10 against the Western Conference, while Memphis is 7-4 against the East with its only road loss coming at Indiana.