By CLAY BAILEY – Associated Press
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — De’Anthony Melton had 24 points, Desmond Bane added 20 and the Memphis Grizzlies continued to win in the absence of top scorer Ja Morant, beating the Milwaukee Bucks 127-102 on Saturday night.
Dillon Brooks scored 19 points and Jaren Jackson Jr. had 16 blocks and two to help Memphis win its fourth straight win and eighth in the last nine games. Melton was 8 of 11 out of the field and walking 6 of 9 from 3-point range.
“I’m just trying to get out there and hop,” Melton said. “Have fun with it. Play with confidence and do what the team asks me to do.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 30 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks, and scored 18 points in the third quarter as Milwaukee attempted a run. Khris Middleton added 16 points. The defending champion Bucks lost for only the third time in their last 13 games.
Milwaukee fell to third in the Eastern Conference with Boston, a half game behind Philadelphia and Miami.
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Antetokounmpo was ruled questionable before the game with a sore right knee, but after going through the pre-game warm-ups he was deemed ready to play. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies continued to play without Morant, who is suffering from a sore right knee and is unlikely to return until late in the regular season.
“They just do a lot of things that are about winning basketball,” said Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer, adding, “Thanks to their players, to (Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins), the coaching staff. They just keep playing no matter who is there. ”
The Bucks struggled to connect on their first-half shots and were below 30% overall towards the middle of the second quarter. Antetokounmpo was 3 of 11 in the first half, part of Milwaukee’s 32% shooting.
Bane and Melton each had 12 as Memphis led 59-46 at the break.
Antetokounmpo came out with a lot more aggression in the second half, making his way to the basket and helping Milwaukee take the Memphis lead. But near the three-minute mark, Melton connected a trio of 3-pointers to take the Grizzlies’ lead to 22.
Memphis led 98-79 and entered fourth place.
“It felt like (Antetokounmpo) tried to get us back in the game,” said Budenholzer. “It felt like we had some momentum there in the third quarter for some small stretches where I felt we could get back in.
“But we couldn’t keep it up.”
For the Grizzlies, they continue to win with Morant on the Regal. They are now 17-2 as their top scorer does not play. Jenkins credits the success to a balanced team.
“We’re just sticking to our identity,” Jenkins said. “It doesn’t matter if you are starters, substitutes or mixed lineups. What we do, we do to the best of our knowledge and belief.”
Melton has connected 3-pointers on 26 of 44 in the last six games — a clip of 59%. As for the secret to his recent success, Melton said his family is in town. He said they “give me confidence.”
“Even if I go out and play softly or something, I have to go home and listen to them,” he said. “I’m just trying to get out there, play hard, play my game and keep them off me for a little bit.”
Bucks: Jrue Holiday, who has led the team in the last two games and averaged 23 points in the last five games, sat out with a sore left ankle. … Middleton passed Vin Baker for 11th on the Bucks’ career rebound list. Baker had 3,080. … saw an end to their four-game winning streak in Memphis. … Bobby Portis Jr. had a season-high eight offensive rebounds.
Grizzlies: Memphis is on a seven-game winning streak at home. … Steven Adams snagged his third offensive rebound in the second half to set a new franchise record for a season. He passed Zach Randolph, who had 330 offensive boards in 2009-10. … Tyus Jones finished with 13 points and 10 assists.
Bucks: In Philadelphia on Tuesday night.
Grizzlies: Host Golden State on Monday night.
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