For roughly the first quarter of the 2004-05 campaign, the Memphis Grizzlies did a great job of erasing the good vibes generated from last season’s inaugural voyage into the playoffs.
But things are starting to turn around.
The Grizzlies will try for the 11th win in their last 14 games when they take on the visiting Milwaukee Bucks.
Despite being swept in the first round of the playoffs by San Antonio, the Grizzlies won 50 games during the regular season and established themselves as a team to be taken seriously in the highly competitive Western Conference.
But Memphis got off to a rough start this season, losing 15 of its first 24 games. Hubie Brown, last season’s Coach of the Year, resigned on Nov. 25. The 71-year-old coach called it quits seven months after leading the Grizzlies to the best season in franchise history, citing the rigors of day-to-day life in the league and a health issue he described as non-catastrophic.
Mike Fratello took over on Dec. 2 and has guided Memphis to a 14-7 record, including a 109-89 win at Charlotte on Friday.
“This was a good team a year ago. They just had to get healthy first and get back to feeling like we can some games again,” Fratello said. “Once that happens, I fell like we can be a pretty decent team.”
Defense has played a big role, as the Grizzlies are allowing just 91.6 points per game, fourth-lowest in the league. They have been even better over their last 13, allowing just 88.6 per game.
“I don’t think it’s a fluke that we’ve been playing the type of defense we’ve been playing,” reserve Stromile Swift said. “We’ve been dedicated in practice, and carrying it over in games. We’re still working at it and we’ll have setbacks. Some nights the defense might not look good, but we’re getting better as a team.”
Things haven’t been going as well for the Bucks, who have dropped three straight following a season high-tying three-game winning streak.
The Bucks’ latest defeat was especially disheartening, as Milwaukee squandered an eight-point lead with five minutes to play in a 105-103 loss to visiting Washington on Friday.
Michael Redd had 20 points, and was frustrated with his team’s performance.
“We don’t have the luxury of just sitting back (when we have a lead),” Redd said. “We have to be forceful and attack people and bring it to people.”
Redd, Milwaukee’s leading scorer with better than 21 points per game, is averaging just 17.8 over his last five.