Bucks aim for consistent effort vs. Grizzlies

By Thomson Reuters Feb 15, 2024 | 2:29 AM

Two steps forward, one step back. That’s been the Milwaukee Bucks’ theme under Doc Rivers, who took over as head coach on Jan. 29.

The Bucks look to head into the All-Star break on a high note when they visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday. Memphis snapped a nine-game losing streak with a 121-113 home victory over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday.

The Bucks fell to 3-6 under Rivers on Tuesday, when the visiting Miami Heat led wire to wire in a dominant 123-97 victory.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was the lone bright spot in the loss, finishing with 23 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. Miami led by as much as 31 points and shot 19 of 40 (47.5 percent) from 3-point range.

“Just the speed, pace, they were quicker on everything, on both ends,” Rivers said postgame. “You have these nights. You hate ’em, but it is what is. For as bad as it looked defensively I thought our offense was way worse tonight. I thought it started early. We were shooting 51 percent at halftime and I thought we were playing just awful offense.

“The ball didn’t move a lot tonight, not the way it’s been moving. I think right now what our team is, we get our personality from the offensive end, and we don’t want that. We want to get our personality from the defense, from playing hard and doing defensive things.”

After allowing fewer than 100 points in back-to-back games for the first time all season, Milwaukee struggled to slow down the Heat.

“They just kept going and they weren’t missing,” Bucks guard Malik Beasley said. “(Miami coach Erik Spoelstra) did a great job. They knew we were top-locking and sending everything down and he drew up backdoor plays. He’s elite at that. At the end, we had to bring more effort. Sometimes we might have to get deeper in our bench to bring energy.”

Milwaukee has lost its last three meetings against Memphis, which is concluding a stretch of three home games in four nights.

GG Jackson scored 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Grizzlies past Houston on Wednesday. Memphis’ Luke Kennard added 19 points, and Jaren Jackson Jr. had 18.

Jaren Jackson has scored 18 points or more in each of his past nine games for the injury-plagued Grizzlies, who remain positive despite owning a 6-20 home record this season.

“It’s good vibes over here in Memphis,” said guard Jordan Goodwin, who scored 10 points on Wednesday in his Grizzlies debut. “We’ve got a good group. Even when there’s guys not playing, everyone’s pulling for each other. We’re out there playing hard. … We’ve got a lot of guys out there flying around and making plays.”

Goodwin started the season with the Phoenix Suns, then was traded last week to the Brooklyn Nets, who subsequently waived him.

GG Jackson returned on Wednesday after serving a one-game suspension for violating team rules. The rookie forward has scored 20 points or more in two of his past three games.

Memphis also received a spark from forward Ziaire Williams, who returned to score five points after missing eight games with a bone contusion in his left hand.

The Grizzlies led the Rockets by as many as 23 points in the second quarter before holding on for the victory. Memphis outscored Houston 37-32 in the fourth quarter.

“The defensive activity was huge late and there was great discipline,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said. “I thought our guys got better as the game went on.”

–Field Level Media