After dropping back-to-back games against opponents that had yet to win a game this season, the Milwaukee Bucks will look to get back on track Saturday night when they host the Memphis Grizzlies at the Bradley Center.
To do that, Milwaukee will need another strong night from forward Jabari Parker, who has averaged 23.2 points on 46.3 percent shooting over his last five games and is coming off a season-high 33-point effort in the Bucks' 112-106 loss to the Pelicans on Thursday night.
“Jabari was great,” Bucks head coach Jason Kidd said after the loss to New Orleans. “He came out and played. He kept us in the game on the offensive end. At the end, we kind of made a game of it. You have to be perfect coming down the stretch, and we just weren't.”
Parker also made three 3-pointers in that contest but the Bucks, as a team, are still looking to bolster their 3-point attack, especially late in games.
Improving that aspect of the offense was a key focus over the summer for general manager John Hammond, who added Matthew Dellavedova, Mirza Teletovic and Tony Snell to the roster before the season began. But Milwaukee lost its go-to long-range shooter in training camp when Khris Middleton was lost for most of the season with a knee injury.
“It is going to be a group effort,” Kidd said. “It's not just we can lean on Khris. We can look at Jabari in that group to be able to get a 3, and not just be able to get a 3 but to make a 3.”
The Grizzles come to Milwaukee looking to string together consecutive victories for the first time this season. A Marc Gasol buzzer-beater allowed Memphis to narrowly escape with a 108-107 victory over Denver on Tuesday night that the Nuggets ultimately protested because they believed — and the NBA's two-minute review confirmed — that the ball went out of bounds on the previous play.
Andrew Harrison scored 10 points with six assists and four steals in that contest as he battles fellow rookie Wade Baldwin for Memphis' backup point guard role behind veteran Mike Conley.
Head coach David Fizdale handed the assignment to Baldwin for the team's first six games and he responded well, averaging 4.3 points and 3.5 assists in 21 minutes per game. But Baldwin has sat out the last two games, looking on from the bench as Harrison gets his shot.
“It's a good competition,” Baldwin told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. “Coach has been even with it. We'll see how it goes.
“I want it. It's a team environment but at the end of the day he's going to put on the floor who he feels most confident with,” Baldwin added. “When I'm out there I've got to be productive. The last game I played I had four turnovers in however many minutes I played. That's unacceptable. I look at that, among other things, as why I'm not in games.”
Fizdale said both players will see plenty of action as the season goes on and will, at some point, share the court together.
“We're feeling our way through,” Fizdale told the newspaper. “Andrew did a heck of a job last game. He was a big reason why we won. He stepped up and helped us on both ends of the floor. They both understand that they are always on deck. No one is out of the rotation. I might play them together. There's never a time when you can get down and feel sorry for yourself. I have confidence in both of them.”
The two teams split the season series a year ago, with each winning on its own home court. The Grizzlies have lost two straight at the Bradley Center.