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Preview: Grizzlies at Bulls

March 23, 2011

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Fresh off one of their biggest wins of the season on Wednesday in Boston, the Grizzlies head to Chicago to try and knock off the surging Bulls, winners of their last 13 at home. Only one team has knocked off both the Celtics and Bulls at home this season (surprisingly enough, the L.A. Clippers) and the Bulls have dropped just four games at the United Center all year, so it will be no easy task for Memphis tonight.

If the Grizzlies want to slay the beasts of the East in consecutive games, they’ll have to continue to play the kind of team-oriented basketball they’ve been playing down the stretch. In Boston, Leon Powe and Zach Randolph shared the team-lead in scoring with just 13 apiece as the Grizzlies spread the ball around. In total, eight players scored at least eight points for Memphis (six in double figures) in the victory.

Here’s what to watch for as the Grizzlies hope for a repeat of Wednesday’s success:

Tour de Tony
This two-game road trip in Boston and Chicago presents obvious challenges and importance for the Grizzlies, but for Tony Allen, it’s personal. Allen, who won a ring along with Leon Powe in Boston in 2008, will now face his hometown Bulls. Allen grew up in Chicago and attended Crane High School along with Pistons guard Will Bynum. The Chicago native, starting in place of the injured Rudy Gay, has swiped at least one steal in 11 consecutive games, the longest such streak of his career.

O.J. Trey-O
Few teams have felt the wrath of O.J. Mayo as much as the Bulls have in the last few years. Mayo, reportedly the object of Chicago’s affection around the trade deadline, has scorched the Bulls in five career games to the tune of 17.8 points on .508 shooting. Add to that an average of 1.8 three-pointers on .563 shooting from distance, Mayo’s highest mark against any single opponent, and it’s easy to see why the Bulls showed an interest in the third-year pro. Mayo seems to have recovered his shooting touch and, perhaps more importantly, his confidence in the last couple of games. While his back-to-back 11-point performances don’t jump off the box score, he’s shown shades of his old self—that same old self that finished as a runner-up for the 2008-09 NBA Rookie of the Year to Chicago’s Derrick Rose.

Rose is in Bloom
MVP candidate Derrick Rose has deserved all the praise he’s garnered this season, leading the Bulls to the East’s best record to date. The Grizzlies were on the receiving end of one of the former University of Memphis guard’s finest games of the MVP campaign when Rose tallied 22 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds on Jan. 17 in a 96-84 win at FedExForum. The sell-out crowd that day came to honor MLK and left with a glimpse of the likely MVP. It will be important for Grizzlies guard Mike Conley to stay in front of Rose defensively and make a few plays on the offensive end as well. It won’t be easy for Conley—the Bulls are one of two teams to hold the Grizzlies’ floor general to a career scoring average of less than 10 points.