If the Chicago Bulls are serious about making the playoffs, a victory over the stumbling Memphis Grizzlies would be a step in the right direction.
Before beginning a stretch of games against some of the top teams in the NBA, the Bulls look to bounce back from yet another loss when they host the Grizzlies on Tuesday.
Chicago (23-36) is in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, three games out of the final playoff spot, in a disappointing season in which few observers thought the team would have to battle to make the playoffs. The weakness of the conference is the main reason the Bulls are still within striking distance of a postseason spot.
The Bulls have lost seven of 10, and a win over Memphis could prove crucial to staying in the race. On Thursday, Chicago begins a six-day stretch that includes matchups with Cleveland, Boston, Detroit and Utah.
The Bulls are coming off a 95-86 loss to the Cavaliers on Sunday that dropped them a season-worst 13 games under .500. Chicago led 76-68 with 9:55 to play, but went 2-of-12 from the floor and turned the ball over seven times after that point.
"We were good offensively at times and we were OK defensively at times, but it seemed that when they turned the heat up on us a little bit, it was difficult for us to get a good offensive flow going," Chicago interim coach Jim Boylan said. "People have to step up and take a leadership role in that area and understand that at the end of the game, teams are going to play their best defense.
"Maximum effort is going to be thrown at you and you have to be ready to respond."
The Bulls are looking to avoid being swept in a season series by the Grizzlies (14-45) for the first time since 2003-04. Chicago lost 104-90 at Memphis on Jan. 21, as the Grizzlies shot 52.1 percent from the floor and limited the Bulls to 36.5.
Chicago, though, has won three straight home games over the Grizzlies and is 10-2 against the Memphis franchise at the United Center. In the last meeting in Chicago on Jan. 13, 2007, the Bulls won 111-66.
Bulls guard Ben Gordon had 25 points in the Jan. 21 defeat. He's averaged 25.8 points and shot 15-of-27 from 3-point range in his last four games against the Grizzlies.
Gordon leads Chicago with 19.4 points per game, but is averaging just 10.7 points on 31.6 percent shooting in his last three contests.
Larry Hughes scored a team-high 23 points Sunday against his former team. Hughes is averaging 19.0 points in five games with the Bulls since being acquired from the Cavs on Feb. 21.
Memphis suffered its eighth straight defeat Saturday, 113-92 to the Jazz to give the team its longest skid since opening the 2002-03 season 0-13. The Grizzlies have dropped 14 of 15 overall and 13 in a row on the road.
"For us to go through this many different types of situations, it's really going to help us for the years to come and help us grow as players,'' rookie point guard Mike Conley said. "Hopefully, we can learn from it and develop from it.''
Memphis forward Rudy Gay scored a team-high 20 points Saturday. He had 24 points and 10 rebounds against the Bulls in January.
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