Breakdowns cost Bucks lead, game against Grizzlies

The Milwaukee Bucks turned an unfamiliar situation into one they've unfortunately become all too accustomed to by letting a second-half lead slip away in Memphis on Saturday night.

Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova drives between Memphis forwards Courtney Lee (5) and Zach Randolph Saturday, at Memphis.  

Lance Murphey / Associated Press

The Milwaukee Bucks turned an unfamiliar situation into one they've unfortunately become all too accustomed to by letting a second-half lead slip away in Memphis on Saturday night.

Up by as many as 13 points in the first half and leading at halftime for the first time since New Year's Eve, the Bucks were unable to sustain their advantage in the second half as the red-hot Grizzlies rallied for a 99-90 victory.

Milwaukee has now dropped six games in a row and 15 of its last 16 but didn't fall behind by 20 points or more for the first time in the six-game losing streak. But despite a good 24 minutes of play, the Bucks walked off the floor FedEx Forum floor frustrated yet again.

"We battled, but it wasn't good enough. It just wasn't good enough," Bucks coach Larry Drew said. "We had some moments where we did do some really good things."

The Bucks jumped out to a 24-17 lead after the first quarter, riding Ersan Ilyasova's eight points and seven rebounds. The Grizzlies shot just 7-of-21 from the field and were kept in the game early because of Marc Gasol's six points inside.

Memphis shot the ball better in the second quarter, but Milwaukee still held a 49-43 advantage at the break. But the Bucks really struggled in the third, hitting just five-of-18 shots and allowing the Grizzlies to score 24 points to cut their lead to just two heading to the fourth.

"I thought we did a real good job defensively in the first two quarters, executing and following our game plan," Drew said. "Second half, we had some breakdowns. Breakdowns along with our shot selection being a little questionable at times, particularly when they were making a little bit of a run."

As well as the Bucks played defensively early on, their defense completely broke down in the fourth quarter. Memphis was able to take the lead and control of the game without Gasol scoring in the final period, as Zach Randolph had 11 of his 23 points in the fourth and rookie point guard Nick Calathes added nine.

Calathes started in place of the injured Mike Conley and scored 22 points, shattering his previous career high of 11. He buried the Bucks in his first career start by hitting three huge 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.

Memphis needed a lift from Calathes after losing Conley -- the team's leading scorer at 18.0 points per game -- to a sprained ankle in Friday night's win in Minnesota.

"Nick was huge for us tonight," Grizzlies forward Jon Leuer said. "For him to come in and have a game like that after Mike went down, that's exactly what we needed. That was a big time performance by him tonight."

Before this most recent stretch in which the Bucks have fallen behind quickly by double digits in games, Milwaukee had struggled at coming out of the locker room and sustaining the energy it brought in the first half.

 

 

That old trend came back to haunt the Bucks on Saturday night and is something they haven't been able to figure out when they are in close games.

"We had the energy in the first half, second half we didn't," Drew said. "We had stretches where we showed signs of energy, but we didn't sustain it.

"I don't know if it's the belief, but we just have breakdowns where we didn't have those in the first half. I have to get my finger on what I can do about it because when you play a half of basketball where you play pretty good and then you lose it, it's up to me to find out what it is."

Pachulia plays: Bucks center Zaza Pachulia made his return to the floor Saturday after missing nearly two months with a broken right foot.

Limited to somewhere around 10 to 15 minutes, Pachulia played 12 minutes and scored four points and one rebound in his first game since Dec. 4.

Having Pachulia gave Drew another big man off the bench with John Henson (wrist) and Ekpe Udoh (ankle) missing Saturday's game. The veteran center provided a physical presence against Gasol and Randolph, but the rust was evident.

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