Gary Dineen/NBAE

Bucks-Grizzlies Game Preview

Following a blowout loss to the Orlando Magic on Friday night, the Bucks head north to Memphis for the second half of their current two-game mini-roadtrip. And if losing by double-digits to the second-worst team in the league was any indication, facing the 25-20 Grizzlies will be quite the task for a Bucks team that’s dropped its last five games. The losing skid is Milwaukee’s fourth this season of at least five games.

Friday’s disappointing showing in Orlando came without John Henson, who was sidelined with a sprained wrist. He’ll also sit out Saturday in hopes of returning Monday when the Bucks host Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks.

In Henson’s place, Larry Sanders returned to the starting lineup and enjoyed one of his best games of the season, going for 10 points, nine rebounds, four steals and four blocks. All signs point to Sanders getting the start again Saturday, and it’s not known whether Nate Wolters will make his second straight start at shooting guard. Wolters took over for Giannis Anteotkounmpo, who had started the previous 21 contests. In 29 minutes off the bench, Antetokounmpo contributed 15 points and seven rebounds while going 2-of-4 from beyond the arc.

The Grizzlies are coming off of a 94-90 victory over the Timberwolves on Friday night and bidding for their season-high sixth consecutive win. They’ll be doing so without point guard Mike Conley, however, as he suffered a right ankle injury in the fourth quarter of Friday’s game and is expected to be out at least a week. Reports surfaced early Saturday that Conley could miss more than a month, but the team is officially listing him as day-to-day. Either way, Conley won’t play out Saturday, leaving point guard duties in the hands of Nick Calathes and Courtney Lee, both of whom are natural shooting guards. Memphis traded backup point guard Jerryd Bayless to the Celtics on Jan. 7 in exchange for Lee.

In last night’s win, Zach Randolph led the way with 26 points and 12 rebounds in a team-high 40 minutes. Marc Gasol also played 40 minutes – his highest total since returning from a knee injury Jan. 14. In nine January games, Gasol is averaging 10.3 points and 5.7 rebounds while shooting just 43.9 percent from the field. If Conley ends up missing extended time, the Grizzlies will lean even more heavily on their stingy interior defense spearheaded by Gasol.

marc-gasol-fist

The Grizzlies rank third in the league in points allowed, surrendering just 95.3 points per game. That number is bad news for a Bucks team averaging a league-low 91.9 points per game. Milwaukee has topped 100 points just 12 times in 46 tries this season.

When these two teams met on Jan. 15, Memphis held the Bucks to just 77 points and 37.8 percent shooting. Milwaukee turned the ball over 15 times and attempted just 12 free throws. And Memphis was without Gasol. If the Grizzlies can replace Mike Conley’s defense at the point guard spot, the Bucks could legitimately have trouble cracking 70 points this time around.

Projected Starters

Memphis

C – Marc Gasol

PF – Zach Randolph

SF – Tayshaun Prince

SG – Courtney Lee

PG – Nick Calathes

Milwaukee

C – Larry Sanders

PF – Ersan Ilyasova

SF – Khris Middleton

SG – Nate Wolters

PG – Brandon Knight

Team rankings

Memphis

Scoring: 25th (95.8)

Scoring Defense: 3rd (95.3)

Rebounds: 16th (43.0)

Assists: 16th (21.6)

Milwaukee

Scoring: 30th (91.9)

Scoring Defense: 21st (101.8)

Rebounds: 25th (41.1)

Assists: 17th (20.9)

Leaders

Points: Conley (18.0), Knight (15.9)

Rebounds: Randolph (10.6), Henson (8.1)

Assists: Conley (6.3), Knight (4.6)

Blocks: Johnson (1.5), Henson (2.2)

PER: Conley (21.3), Henson (20.1)

Jan. 15 Highlights

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZaZK0IEr90

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Tags: Brandon Knight Bucks Giannis John Henson Larry Sanders Milwaukee Bucks Nate Wolters

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