Keys to the Game: Bulls vs. Grizzlies (03.07.18)

Tonight the Memphis Grizzlies make their one and only visit to Chicago to take on the Bulls. This is the first of two meetings between to the clubs, as Chicago will head to "The Grindhouse" in Memphis a week from tomorrow for the rematch.

As for this evening, the Grizzlies are looking to stop the bleeding as they are in the midst of a nightmarish 14-game losing streak. They almost broke the spell Monday night in San Antonio before ultimately falling to the Spurs, 100-98, a game that had 18 lead changes and 17 ties. Grizzlies center, Marc Gasol, who finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds, drained a 3-pointer and then banked in a jumper with 0.3 seconds remaining to reach the final tally. Gasol and his back up, Deyonta Davis both played after being listed as questionable before the game with left ankle injuries. As of this writing, it has not been determined if either will take the court for tonight's contest against the Bulls. A couple of other key players for Memphis have also been battling the injury bug of late, which certainly has contributed to the Griz's recent woes and owning the NBA's worst record (18-45). The other night against the Spurs Tyreke Evans (ribs), Andrew Harrison (wrist), Jarell Martin (right knee), Mario Chalmers (hamstring) and Ben McLemore (personal) were unable to answer the bell.

Grizzlies rookie point guard Kobi Simmons, who was a college teammate of first year Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen at Arizona, made his first career NBA start against San Antonio and played well, shooting 6-of-10 from the field (1-of-2 from 3), while snagging four rebounds and handing out three assists in notching 13 points. Over Memphis' last two games, Simmons has shot a blistering 12-of-19 (63.2%) overall while averaging 13.5 points.

As for Chicago, the Bulls are also coming off a Monday night loss, but their game wasn't anywhere near as tight as they got thumped by Boston, 105-89, here at the United Center. Worse yet, Boston's best player, Kyrie Irving, didn't even play.

The C's got off to a hot start by scoring the first seven points of the game and halfway through the opening quarter led, 26-5. Chicago's defense was horrific as Boston pretended to be the Harlem Globetrotters with multiple alley-oops and posted 10 assists on their first 15 baskets. By halftime the Bulls trailed 55-29, as it quickly became clear the night's final outcome would never be in doubt. The loss was Chicago's 14th in its last 17 games and dropped their record to 21-42 on the season.

Thus in order for the Bulls to get back on track this evening they're going to have to forget about Monday all together and hit the hardwood with a renewed sense of purpose. Chicago needs to come out of the gates fast and establish themselves as aggressors from the opening tip. They must sport a tenacious defensive personality, and go all out for every rebound and loose ball. As a team, the Bulls need to crash the boards hard at both ends of the floor and run the floor at every opportunity to post easy scores before the defense has time to set up.

To that end the Bulls also can't afford to allow their confidence to fall apart if they happen to get off to a bad start. They must realize there's plenty of time to get back into a game if they focus and begin to execute their gameplan. They also have to keep turnovers in check while at the same time persistently push the ball up the floor and openly share it with one another by making it jump from player-to-player and hop from side-to-side.

Offensively the Bulls must also open up the floor, stationing shooters evenly along the 3-point arc to force Memphis' defense to abandon the paint and cover a lot of ground. Chicago's playmakers, particularly point guards Kris Dunn and Cameron Payne, as well as wings Zach LaVine and David Nwaba must establish a fast and aggressive pace and take advantage of every opportunity to drive the ball hard to the rim.

As a general rule the Bulls want to take anywhere from 85 to 90 shots a game, with 30 or more from beyond the 3-point arc. In order to achieve those goals they have they have to move the ball up the court in a hurry and get everyone involved. To generate open looks at the rim the ball must move freely, forcing the defense to overcommit and expend and extra energy.

Chicago's chief mission tonight is to hit the hardwood with an aggressive mindset and never back off. To create scoring opportunities, they have to generously distribute the ball and get everyone involved in the action. Defensively they have play with an edge, and commit to outhustling Memphis in every way.

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