The Milwaukee Bucks will vie for their 17th straight win when they visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.
The Bucks tied the second-longest winning streak in franchise history with a 127-112 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday. They are closing in on the franchise record of 20 straight wins, set during the team’s 1970-71 championship season.
Reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo sat out Wednesday’s game because of soreness in his right quad. His status for Friday was unclear as of Thursday afternoon as Milwaukee prepares for back-to-back games against the Grizzlies and the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers (on Saturday).
“We’ll take it day by day and we’re always going to err on the side of caution,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer told reporters.
Antetokounmpo’s absence was not a factor against the Pelicans as Eric Bledsoe scored 29 points and Khris Middleton added 24 in the victory. Bledsoe finished the game 10 for 13 from the field while adding six assists.
“I think we took a little bit more ownership of what’s going on out there,” Middleton said of both his and Bledsoe’s effort. “When Giannis is out there, I mean, he draws such a huge crowd we play through him a lot. With him out tonight we know we’re just going to have to do a little bit more.”
Veteran forward Ersan Ilyasova started in place of Antetokounmpo and had a season-high 18 points and nine rebounds.
“Ersan is in a great place,” Budenholzer said. “He’s making a lot of those feel plays, those rhythm plays. The offense is moving a little better recently and I think that suits Ersan. His ability to slip and roll in the pick-and-rolls and work behind the defense, he’s just a really smart player.”
The Grizzlies are trying to build a win streak of their own. After losing nine of 10 games, Memphis has won two straight for the first time in a month after a 115-108 victory over the Phoenix Suns Wednesday night to earn a split of their four-game road trip.
Dillon Brooks had 27 points and Jaren Jackson Jr. added 24 and three 3-pointers as the Grizzlies built a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter.
“We were guarding,” Brooks said. “We were taking it personal. They beat us at our house, so we wanted to beat them at their crib.”
It was Brooks’ third game this season with at least 25 points and the Grizzlies are 6-0 this season when he scores 20 or more.
Brandon Clarke had 15 points and seven rebounds off the bench and rookie Ja Morant had 13 points and six assists, although he was ruled out Friday’s game with a back injury. Morant has 39 points and 13 assists in his last two games after missing the previous four with back spasms.
“I feel like we’re just playing the way we need to play honestly, what we’re capable of,” Morant said. “Being able to see the guys (while) sitting out the first two on the road I just got to see what type or team we can be so I just try to come in an bring as much energy as I can, share the ball, give guys open looks. And I feel now everybody is locked into what we need to do.”
Reserve De’Anthony Melton chipped in nine points, six rebounds and three assists in 19 minutes.
Grizzlies guard Grayson Allen didn’t play because of right ankle soreness, but Kyle Anderson (heel) played after missing five straight games.
The Grizzlies are 3-10 at home while the Bucks are 10-2 on the road.
–Field Level Media