Preview: Bucks at Grizzlies
The Milwaukee Bucks get a soft spot in the schedule at an opportune time when they begin a string of three consecutive games against clubs with losing records as they face the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night in Memphis, Tenn.
The Bucks (35-31) have lost six of their last eight games to fall into the eighth playoff position in the Eastern Conference. They trail No. 7 Miami (36-31) by a half-game and have a five-game cushion over No. 9 Detroit (30-36).
Milwaukee also will face Orlando on its three-day, two-game trip, followed by a home game against Atlanta.
The Bucks will play 10 of their final 16 games on the road.
Against the Grizzlies, Milwaukee will face a team on a 17-game losing streak. Memphis hasn’t won since beating Phoenix at home on Jan. 29.
The 17-game streak is the longest for the Grizzlies since the franchise moved to Memphis. They had 19- and 23-game droughts in their Vancouver days.
The Grizzlies are coming off a 114-80 loss at Dallas. The 34-point margin of defeat was their largest of the season.
“It’s in our mind every game,” impressive Grizzlies rookie Dillon Brooks said of the streak. “We’re trying to figure out what’s working and try to keep progressing through that, but not a lot is clicking right now. I guess we’ve just got to clear our heads and go into the next game energetic and act like we love the game.”
Brooks, a second-round pick out of Oregon last June, has been one of the league’s top rookies in recent games.
He had 17 points in the loss to Dallas, giving him 17 or more in four straight games. He has averaged 21.3 points during that stretch, shooting 49 percent overall and 46 percent on 3-pointers.
Brooks had 19 points when the Grizzlies put up a fight before losing 110-103 in Milwaukee in November. Bucks All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo contributed 27 points, nine rebounds and seven assists to that win.
Antetokounmpo has been one of the few bright spots for the Bucks in the last 10 games, during which they’ve gone 3-7 to fall on the Eastern playoff ladder. He has averaged 25.1 points, 9.1 rebounds and 5.3 rebounds during that stretch, shooting 50 percent.
The Bucks’ biggest issue in recent outings has been their guard play, or lack thereof.
Milwaukee has been playing without Malcolm Brogdon (torn quad) and Matthew Dellavedova (sprained right ankle), leaving the Bucks so short on depth at the position that they were forced to waive forward Mirza Teletovic during the weekend to open a roster spot for Brandon Jennings.
“Delly has had a little bit of a setback,” Bucks coach Joe Prunty announced, helping explain the transaction. “I don’t believe he’s going to go on the trip.”
Promoting Jennings from the scrap heap provides the veteran a homecoming to the team that drafted him 10th overall in 2009.
Coincidentally, that happens to be the last time Memphis had a top 10 pick. They selected Connecticut big man Hasheem Thabeet with the second overall selection that year.
Jennings averaged 17.0 points per game for four years for the Bucks before being traded to Detroit in 2013 in a deal that netted Khris Middleton.