Keys to the Game: Bulls at Grizzlies (02.27.19)

Tonight the Chicago Bulls (16-45) visit the Memphis Grizzlies (24-38) to close out the two-game season series. Chicago won the first matchup at the United Center two weeks ago, 122-110. Bulls forward Otto Porter Jr. enjoyed a career night lighting up the scoreboard to the tune of 37 points, while Robin Lopez posted a season-best 25 and Ryan Arcidiacono dished a career-high 11 assists. Lauri Markkanen also notched a double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds.

Porter shot a blistering 16-for-20 from the field as the Bulls connected on 56.2% of their shots overall. Avery Bradley led Memphis’ attack with 15 points, while five of his teammates (Mike Conley, Jaren Jackson Jr., CJ Miles, Jonas Valanciunas and Delon Wright) recorded a dozen each.

Markkanen has been one of the hottest players in the league in recent days. The second-year forward has recorded double-digit rebounds in 10 of his last 12 games. Additionally, this month Markkanen has recorded 20+ points and 10+ rebounds seven times. If he can score 20 or more points this evening, it’ll be the 10th straight game he would have done so.

On the year, Markkanen is averaging 19.3 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists while shooting 44.3% overall and 38.3% from deep — all career-highs. After missing the first six weeks of the season an elbow injury, the 21-year old Finn native has recorded 15 double-doubles in 38 games played.

Chicago hits the hardwood tonight looking to launch a new winning streak after falling to Milwaukee on Monday, 117-106. Prior to that outing the Bulls had won three straight for the first time this season. Markkanen and Lopez each recorded 26 points, with Markkanen also grabbing a dozen rebounds. Starting point guard Kris Dunn and Otto Porter Jr. ended up missing the game due to a migraine headache and strained lower left leg, respectively. As of this writing, both Dunn and Porter Jr. are listed as questionable for tonight’s contest.

As for Memphis, they ended a four-game slide on Monday by defeating the LA Lakers, 110-105, here at FedEx Forum. Veteran Mike Conley connected for 30 points to lead the way. On the year, the 6’1” playmaker is averaging 20.2 points and 6.4 assists, however, against the Bulls two weeks ago, he had an off night, shooting just 3-for-11 from the field, and recording 12 points overall.

Former Bulls center and forever fan-favorite Joakim Noah celebrated his 34th birthday with a big game against the Lakers, notching 14 points and 12 rebounds — it was his third straight double-double. In his last three games, Noah’s averaging 17.3 points and 10 rebounds.

For the Bulls to get on the winning track tonight they’re going to need to out execute Memphis at both ends of the floor. Offensively they need to continue to be unselfish by consistently and crisply moving the ball between all five Chicagoans on the floor. The ball has to hop from side-to-side and from player-to-player in order to keep Memphis’ defense on the move in covering a lot of ground. To that end as a collective unit the Bulls must play with an aggressive mindset, first by controlling the boards and then looking to get out on the break and attack the rim at every opportunity.

From the opening tip until the final buzzer, the Bulls will need to commit to outhustling and outworking the Grizzlies in every way.