The Bulls Wednesday survived almost losing a 21-point second half lead, the Memphis Grizzlies several times in the closing minutes getting within a point. But the Bulls endured for a 119-110 victory.
The Bulls moved to 22-42 while Memphis lost its 15th consecutive game and is 18-46.
The Bulls seemed in control even late in the third quarter before Memphis opened the fourth quarter with an 18-4 run against the Bulls reserves. Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg brought back his starters, who looked like they’d get a rest, and they made crucial plays to barely keep Memphis from taking a late lead.
The Bulls were led by Lauri Markkanen with 22 points. Zach LaVine had 21 and Kris Dunn 21 and nine assists with three steals and six turnovers. Bobby Portis had 15 points and 10 rebounds and Justin Holiday 14 points. David Nwaba had eight points, but numerous potentially game saving rebounds and defensive plays late in the fourth quarter.
Robin Lopez remained inactive. But with the league imposing the rules regarding resting healthy players, Holiday started for Nwaba. Lopez is expected to start along with Holiday on the road in Detroit Friday. Paul Zipser remained out with a foot injury and Portis started again at center. The Bulls began sluggishly again, walking into their offense, which has set them back to start games. It was 5-0 Memphis before Holiday showed his worth with the first of his three first quarter three pointers as the Bulls took a 9-8 lead. Noah Vonleh showed shooting range late in the quarter and the Bulls led 30-22 after one quarter on six of 13 three-point shooting. Cameron Payne also was aggressive on defense, contesting over screens after Dunn drew two early fouls. The Grizzlies coming in with 14 consecutive losses surged to start the second quarter with some swift inside scoring and a 9-4 run to get within 34-31. Payne then made a pair of good offensive plays and Portis began to find space in the post for a 41-33 Bulls lead with seven minutes left in the first half. The Bulls then had their best defensive stretch in weeks with Markkanen and Portis overplaying, forcing steals and six straight points for a 48-36 lead. All four of Markkanen’s first half field goals were dunks and the Bulls went in to lead 64-51 at the half.
The Bulls began to pull away midway through the third quarter with a decisive 9-0 run. Holiday made his fourth consecutive three to begin the run, Markkanen made a three and then there was Dunn with a drive. That gave the Bulls a 77-58 lead and onto a game high 82-61. LaVine finally got his offense going and Markkanen added a three for just his second game of at least 20-point since Jan. 10. The Bulls went into the fourth quarter leading 90-75. But that was with a Memphis three to close the third and four straight Grizzlies points to start the fourth quarter to get within 90-79. Payne broke than run with a driving score. But the Bulls reserves were loose with the ball, four Bulls turnovers in the first three minutes, and Memphis got back within 94-90 with eight minutes left in the game. Portis finally broke an 18-4 Memphis run to start the fourth with a driving score. The Bulls went back to their five who started against Boston with Portis, Dunn, Markkanen, LaVine and Nwaba. They hit the Grizzlies with a 10-2 run highlighted by a Dunn steal and Dunk, a LaVine three and Portis jumper for a 106-97 Bulls lead with four minutes left. Memphis shot back into the game on the shooting of Dillon Brooks and playing small with quickness and trailed 106-105 with 2:55 left. Nwaba’s rebounding was crucial down the stretch with back to back offensive rebounds and a vital defensive rebound that led to a Dunn driving score for a 113-108 Bulls lead with 90 seconds left.