The Bulls Sunday had more grit and ended up grinding out a 108-104 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.
Doug McDermott scored a career high 31 points, but it was Jimmy Butler with two big jump shots in the last minute after the Grizzlies had rallied back from a seven-point fourth quarter deficit to tie the game with under a minute left.
The second straight Bulls win got them back to .500 at 21-21. The Grizzlies fell to 25-18. In addition to McDermott’s big night, the Bulls got 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists from Butler, 18 points and eight assists from Taj Gibson, 12 points, seven rebounds and three blocks from Robin Lopez and 14 points and seven rebounds from Michael Carter-Williams. Mike Conley had 28 for Memphis and Marc Gasol 24.
The Bulls were in Memphis, the site of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., for the game with the special holiday ceremonies. It was the annual league wide commemoration of the life of the great civil rights leader. Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis April 4, 1968 at the Lorraine Motel. Dr. King, the conscience of the civil rights movement in the U.S., was known in Chicago for the 1966 open housing movement when he moved into a house in North Lawndale on the West Side. After leaving, a young Jesse Jackson was put in charge of the Chicago activities. Dr. King was in Memphis at the time in support sanitary workers. The Bulls were without Dwyane Wade, who was resting on a back to back game, and Nikola Mirotic, who still was ill. Neither was with the team. Paul Zipser got his second start at small forward with Butler moving to guard. It was a good start for Zipser with an opening runner and jumper off the dribble that got the Bulls back within 11-10 with 6:58 left in the first quarter. But it was a brutal shooting quarter for both teams, the Bulls a shocking two of nine on free throws, missing all six threes and 27.3 percent shooting overall. The Grizzlies couldn’t get much going either at 34.8 percent and one of six on threes in a slow moving first quarter after which the Grizzlies led 19-14. Memphis had 19 rebounds with all the misses and the Bulls 15. The teams finished the quarter shooting a combined one for 20. The Bulls got some offense going with Rajon Rondo and McDermott to start the second quarter, the point guard finding McDermott on a pair of back door cuts after Denzel Valentine found McDermott for a three. That run got the Bulls within 28-22 with 8:26 left in the half. McDermott kept it up, scoring on a four-point play with 7:48 left and then made it 14 straight Bulls points to tie the game at 30. McDermott added another four point play on a step back jumper with 5:50 left on the second quarter to give the Bulls a 36-33 lead. McDermott continued with his career quarter, scoring 20 points and 22 in the first half after totaling 21 in the previous four games. The Bulls defense also came alive as the Languid Lopez had arguably the greatest play in NBA history—if LeBron James’ chase down block of Andre Iguodala was considered that in last year’s Finals—chasing down James Ennis on a Memphis fast break for a block. The Bulls thus went into halftime leading 52-46 in equaling their highest scoring quarter of the season with 38 points after the lowest scoring with 14 in the first quarter. Gasol had 16 for Memphis.
After Memphis opened the second quarter drawing within 52-51, Taj Gibson had a power dunk on a pass that bounced off the face of Lopez to him. The Bulls then got their best quarter from Carter-Williams, who used his size advantage posting up and driving against Conley and the Bulls went ahead 66-59 midway through the third quarter. Lopez added a nice rolling score on a Butler pass, but a pair of Vince Carter threes brought Memphis within 69-67 with four minutes left in the third quarter. McDermott got to career highs with eight of nine free throws through three quarters and the Bulls went into the fourth quarter leading 78-77 with 27 points from McDermott. McDermott continued his new day, going into the post again for a fadeaway jumper as the Bulls scored the first six points of the fourth quarter. But the Grizzlies fired back with a Conley drive and Zach Randolph putback to get within 84-81 with 9:14 left. It became the sort of grinding, physical game Memphis is known for after that with Memphis taking an 87-86 lead with 6:40 left on a Gasol jumper. The Bulls took it back on a Gibson three-point play on a Butler pass with Butler back at point guard. A Butler three on a pass back from Gibson gave the Bulls a 95-93 lead with 3:59 left. The Bulls took a 99-94 lead on a Carter-Williams drive with three minutes left. Memphis tied it 100 on a pair of Conley free throws with 1:33 left, but Butler then hit two jumpers from the right side, the second with 26 seconds left for the 106-104 Bulls lead.