But, in the third quarter, the Grizzlies started converting those fastbreak opportunities with better spacing, better passing, and better finishing, scoring 16 of 23 third-quarter points in transition to build a commanding lead that the Bucks never really challenged.
While the Grizzlies' own offense (41% shooting, 16 turnovers, 3-8 from long range) still doesn't look at the top tier level it was early in the season, the team as a whole seems to have lifted itself from last week's funk with three straight wins against teams (Jazz, Bulls, now Bucks) with winning records.
Man of the Match: In a good overall team effort, I'm giving the nod to Jerryd Bayless. Bayless has been struggling over the past few weeks, but did a nice job leading a bench unit that got extended minutes. (Marc Gasol led starters with only 32 minutes).
Bayless created three straight scores in the early second quarter — assisting on a Marc Gasol lay-up and then making consecutive mid-range jumpers — to give the Grizzlies a lead that they never relinquished, and generally played with more confidence and effectiveness than we've seen in a while. (And, perhaps not coincidentally, with seemingly more latitude from Lionel Hollins.)
Bayless finished with 8 points (4-7 shooting), 5 rebounds, and 5 assists in 19 minutes, with my favorite play a really nice crosscourt pass to Quincy Pondexter for a spot-up corner three. I'm hopeful that we're starting to see Bayless settling into his role as Mike Conley's back-up and occasional sidekick, checking a box that the Grizzlies really shouldn't have to be concerned about.
Nightly Number: I'm betting Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis are happy they don't have to face the Grizzlies again this season. After shooting a combined 11-38 against the Grizzlies in Milwaukee back in early November, the pair started — gulp — 0-17 tonight en route to a final tally of 10-40. As I suggested before the game, with Ellis and Jennings struggling, the Bucks didn't have enough other options to generate points against what is currently the league's best defense.
The Match-Up: With small forward size, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute would seem to be incapable of hanging with Zach Randolph on the block, but this match-up was close to a draw early, with Mbah a Moute holding his own defensively and using his quickness to drive on Randolph. But if Mbah a Moute held up defensively, neither he nor anyone else on the Bucks could keep Randolph (15 points on 6-16 shooting, 17 rebounds) off the boards.
Elements of Style: Speaking of Z-Bo, credit him with the play of the game: A one-handed dunk on Bucks big Ekpe Udoh. The rare Randolph dunk is usually uncontested. Can't remember ever really seeing him posterize someone.
Where They Stand: The Grizzlies improve to 17-6, moving past the San Antonio Spurs into third place in the Western Conference.
Looking Ahead: The Grizzlies complete the current homestand with a big one Friday against division rival Dallas, which will bring a hot O.J. Mayo back to town for his first Memphis game in a different uniform.
Announced Attendance: 16,007, which has to be a franchise record for a weeknight game against Milwaukee.