Grizzlies-Bucks Preview

The Associated Press

The Milwaukee Bucks are trying to rise into the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Memphis Grizzlies are trying to hold on to a spot in the tightly-packed West.

The Bucks go for a third straight victory Saturday night when they host the Grizzlies.

Memphis is currently in sixth place in the Western Conference, just one game out of fifth but also only 1 1/2 ahead of ninth-place Utah. The Grizzlies (27-22) have dropped seven of 11, including a 98-89 loss at Houston on Friday.

While Memphis is struggling to maintain its playoff position, Milwaukee has reason for confidence after winning nine of its last 12.

The Bucks (24-27) moved within 1 1/2 games of New York for eighth in the East following a 121-84 victory over Cleveland on Friday - their highest-scoring game of the season. Milwaukee shot 56.8 percent overall and hit 10 of 16 from 3-point range.

"Our movement was good again," coach Scott Skiles said. "We had 19 assists and three turnovers at halftime. We just had a very, very, very good offensive game. ... There are certain nights when everybody is kind of seeing everybody and we really did a nice job of that (Friday)."

Brandon Jennings scored 28 points while Ersan Ilyasova, who missed the previous game with back spasms, added 20. Both sat out the entire fourth quarter with the victory well in hand.

The Bucks are averaging 108.0 points over their last 12 games - nearly 10 above their season average.

Those numbers could be concerning for a Memphis defense that struggled to make key stops in Friday's loss to the Rockets.

The Grizzlies never led and couldn't come back completely from a 17-point deficit. They pulled within three points with 4:39 to go, but Houston hit two big shots to keep Memphis at bay.

"We couldn't get a key stop or a key rebound or a key loose ball or whatever down the stretch,'' said guard Tony Allen, who had 15 points for his sixth straight game reaching double figures. "They showed they wanted it more than we did. It's going to be a battle for the rest of the season.''

Starting center Marc Gasol returned after missing a game with a sore right ankle and had 19 points and nine rebounds. O.J. Mayo added 15 points.

The Grizzlies are giving up 102.1 points over the last nine games - up from the 93.9 per game they are allowing on the season.

Slow starts have been a problem. In their last four losses, they've been outscored by an average of 10.5 points in the first quarter.

Memphis has lost four of five on the road, but swept last season's two matchups against Milwaukee after losing seven of the previous eight in the series.

This is the only meeting between the Grizzlies and Bucks this season.

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