Keys to the Game: Bulls vs Grizzlies (02.13.19)
Tonight the Chicago Bulls (13-44) host the Memphis Grizzlies (23-35) in the first of two contests set for this season. Memphis lost at home against San Antonio last night, 108-107, while Chicago hits the United Center hardwood looking to avoid a winless homestand after dropping the first two, and 18 of their last 21 overall.
In the Grizzlies loss to the Spurs recent trade additions Avery Bradley (career-high 33 points) and center Jonas Valanciunas (23 points / 10 rebounds) provided plenty of grit and fire for the Beal Streeters, but there was just a little too much LaMarcus Aldridge (22 points) in the paint down the stretch, as the seven-time All-Star forward scored San Antonio's final seven points.
Grizzlies' rookie Jaren Jackson Jr had a chance to knot the score with two free throws with only a second left to play, but missed the first attempt and in trying to purposely miss the second ended up banking the shot into the basket to give the Spurs the opportunity to run out the clock.
Mike Conley, the Grizzlies regular starting point guard, ended up being a late scratch last night due to illness. His availability for this evening is up in the air as of this writing, but one player Bulls fans will sure to be happy to see take the court is backup center Joakim Noah. The longtime Chicago fan favorite came off the bench for Memphis last night and chipped in eight points, four rebounds and four assists in 18 minutes. In 28 games since signing with Memphis after the start of the season, Noah's averaging 5.2 points and 4.7 rebounds in 14 minutes.
The Bulls are coming off a 112-99 loss to Milwaukee on Monday. Chicago trailed by just a point at halftime, and was still within a point with a little over two minutes to go in the third before the Bucks went on an 8-1 run to close the quarter. Chicago was able to close within three points with 2:55 left in the game, but Milwaukee got hot again and closed the night on a 12-2 run to capture the victory. Zach LaVine led the Bulls with 27 points and seven assists, while Lauri Markkanen posted his fourth straight double-double with 20 points and 17 rebounds.
In order for the Bulls to end up on top at the end of tonight's game they're going to have to take a page out of San Antonio's playbook and attempt to overpower and out execute Memphis at both ends of the floor. Offensively Chicago has to keep the ball moving in getting everyone on the floor involved. The Bulls need to make the ball skip from side-to-side and from player-to-player to force the Grizzlies defense to scramble. To that end Chicago's playmakers (Kris Dunn, LaVine, Markkanen as well as Otto Porter Jr.) must play with an aggressive mindset by establishing the will to attack the rim at every opportunity.
As a team, Chicago also needs assume command of the boards and attempt to speed the pace of the game by getting out on the break as often as possible so that they can post easy scores before Memphis has an opportunity to set up on defense.
From the opening tip until the final buzzer, Chicago must commit to outhustling the Grizzlies in every imaginable way.