Memphis Grizzlies

Five observations: Bulls hang on to defeat Grizzlies 106-99, sparking their first winning streak of the season

Five observations: Bulls hang on to defeat Grizzlies 106-99, sparking their first winning streak of the season

We have a winning streak! The Bulls played well, then fine, then poorly, then came alive down the stretch in a 106-99 win over a depleted Grizzlies squad. It wasn't pretty, but a win is a win. Here are some observations:

Bulls get off to a fast start

Jim Boylen talked all day — from shootaround to pregame — about the importance of getting out to a fast start, especially in front of the home crowd.

The Bulls did just that tonight. They started the game on a 13-2 run, catalyzed by two quick Lauri Markkanen threes. Markkanen and Zach LaVine combined for 18 points in the quarter on a near perfect 6-for-7 shooting (3-for-4 from three). Tomas Satoransky looked in command of the offense in his eight first period minutes — despite not scoring, he assisted on four of the Bulls’ 10 made buckets.

The bench gave a little ground as the quarter wore on, but clung to a 27-20 lead entering the second by way of a buzzer-beating Ryan Arcidiacono three. That’s a closer margin than most of the frame felt, but the reserves pushed the lead to 16 by the time the starters re-claimed the reigns with 6:39 until halftime.

The Grizzlies didn’t play a good first half, but hang around

The Grizzlies entered tonight a 6-14 team and playing without their best player. To put it simply, they looked the part — at least to start. They missed their first 16 threes (becoming the first NBA team all season to fail to make a three in the first half of a game) and let the Bulls get just about anything they wanted offensively. The Bulls held them to 15 points in the second quarter and 25 in the first half, both season-lows for opponents.

But Memphis clawed their way back into the game, as 2019-20 Bulls opponents have been wont to do. For a stretch in the third, the Bulls went cold, and Jonas Valanciunas got hot. He bully-balled his way to eight points in the quarter, and the Grizzlies at one point pulled within six after trailing by as many as 22 in the first half. Valanciunas finished with a game-high 32 points and 13 rebounds — a thorn in the Bulls' side from start to finish.

The Bulls roleplayers were able to keep them at arms-length, for a time. Thad Young had seven points in the third. Satoransky again subtly emerged when the Bulls needed him most, tallying five points, two assists and two steals in the quarter.

The Bulls ultimately led by 14 entering the fourth, but things, of course, got more interesting from there.

The duality of the 2019 Bulls rears its head once again

This game was the full 2019 Bulls experience. First, a red-hot first half in which they shot 8-for-18 from three and held their opponent to a season-low 35 points. Then, an ice-cold latter half, shooting 3-for-13 on triples in the second half. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies’ fortunes flipped — after their 0-for-15 start, they canned six of their next 11 triples. 

The Bulls even tossed in a near-fourth quarter collapse, to boot. Down 12, the Grizzlies ripped off a 17-6 run over a 3:51 minute stretch of the fourth behind 11 combined points from Grayson Allen and Jae Crowder. A Crowder three pulled the Grizzlies within one at the 4:29 mark, to the collective sagging of every Bull on the floor’s shoulders.

Starters wake up down the stretch

But after a Jim Boylen timeout, the starters woke up. Zach LaVine came straight out and nailed a three, then a midrange two to push the lead to six. Kris Dunn’s second (!) longball of the game then made the lead nine. When an Allen three appeared to somewhat stymie their momentum, Markkanen wrapped around a screen and drained a leaning triple to make the lead nine once again. LaVine was at least partially responsible for 13 straight points over that stretch, via made field goal or assist.

After posting a relatively quiet 16 points on 5-for-9 shooting over the first three quarters, LaVine came alive in the fourth. He had nine points in the period — punctuated by the crucial buckets mentioned above — and finished the game with 11 free throw attempts, his third game in a row with 10 or more trips to the line.

Everyone else in the starting lineup had encouraging overall performances. Wendell Carter Jr. bounced back from two early fouls to notch his 12th double-double of the season, scoring 16 points, snagging 13 rebounds and blocking four shots (he also largely held Jaren Jackson Jr. in check tonight). Markkanen had 15 on an efficient 5-for-9 shooting (4-for-8 from three), though seeing him move more aggressively downhill and snare more than five rebounds would have been ideal. Satoransky and Dunn set the pace and came through when needed.

The rotation again looked traditional tonight, a trend Boylen has said is intentional. Every starter but Kris Dunn (who fouled out late in the fourth) played 29 or more minutes. Only Coby White played more than 20 of the reserves.

Momentum-builder?

Yes, this was another much-too-close-for-comfort win over a team the Bulls should be leaps and bounds better than. But a win is a win, and after the way the season began, those can’t be taken for granted.

With the victory, the Bulls move to 4-7 on the season at home — an area in which Boylen and others have stressed it’s important to improve. This is also their first win-streak of the season. WIth Golden State coming to town, Friday, perhaps they can continue to build.

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What to watch for: Bulls return home for second matchup of the season with Memphis Grizzlies

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USA Today

What to watch for: Bulls return home for second matchup of the season with Memphis Grizzlies

After a three-game west coast swing, the Bulls are back home for a matchup with the 6-14 Memphis Grizzlies. The game tips at 7 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago — until then, here’s what to watch for:

Grizzlies’ last five games (1-4)

  • Dec. 2 — L vs. Pacers: 117-104

  • Dec. 1 — W at Timberwolves: 115-107

  • Nov. 29 — L vs. Jazz: 103-94

  • Nov. 27 — L vs. Clippers: 121-119

  • Nov. 25 — L at Pacers: 126-114

One storyline for each team

These Grizzlies — who the Bulls have seen already this season in a 110-102 win in Memphis on Oct. 25 — are a young, feisty rebuilding group. But tonight, they’ll be without both of their promising 2019 first-round picks: franchise centerpiece and presumptive ROY favorite, Ja Morant (back spasms) and Brandon Clarke (hip). Still, Jaren Jackson Jr., athletic, sharp-shooting and uber-versatile defensively, is a glimpse into the future of the center position and a must-watch whenever he comes to town. Dillon Brooks is a savvy scorer quietly enjoying a career year.

But, back home (where they're 3-7 on the season) after a week on the West Coast, this remains a game the Bulls should win. The Zach LaVine/Lauri Markkanen combination will be at the center of everybody’s attention. The two had simultaneously productive outings in Monday night’s win in Sacramento, each scoring 20 points in the same game for the first time this season. LaVine had 37 points in their last matchup with Memphis, Markkanen shot 4-for-15, scoring nine.

“I think me and him started doing some more two-man game stuff, even if we had to break a little bit of offense up,” LaVine said after the Kings game. “Two-man game with me and him is deadly because if they’re helping off me, they’re going to leave a great shooter open. I’m excited.”

Before that game, LaVine had assisted 13 Markkanen field goals this season, none on pick-and-pop possessions. That two-man game developing could be transformational for the Bulls’ offense. Look out for it tonight.

Player to watch: Jaren Jackson Jr.

Depending on the availability of Jonas Valanciunas, Jackson could start at the five tonight, matching him up with draft classmate Wendell Carter Jr. Jackson is coming off his highest-scoring performance of the season, a 31-point effort against the Pacers on Monday:

His ball-handling ability and shooting prowess present a whale of a defensive challenge for Carter. But, like Carter, he often struggles with foul trouble — Jackson is tied for the league lead in personal fouls per game (4.1), Carter tied for second with four — and isn’t the strongest rebounder for his size. He’s currently averaging only 4.8 rebounds per game, and Cleaning the Glass ranks him in the 17th percentile in defensive rebounding percentage for his position.

Back in October, he did log a double-double (23 points, 11 rebounds) against the Bulls. The battle between he and Carter is sure to be entertaining all night.

Battle to watch: Lauri Markkanen vs. frontcourt

Bulls fans, though, should perhaps keep a closer eye on Markkanen’s matchup against Memphis’ frontcourt. The last time these two teams met, Markkanen appeared to struggle with the defensive length and athleticism the Grizz threw at him, mustering one of his worst shooting performances of the season. Tonight, though, Memphis will be without Brandon Clarke (25 minutes on Oct. 25) and possibly Valanciunas (18 minutes on Oct. 25).

Without the two of them, head coach Taylor Jenkins has rolled with a smallish, stretchy lineup of late, that features Solomon Hill and Jae Crowder at the forward spots. Crowder is a bulldog that backs down from no one, and Jackson behind him is one of the more dynamic shotblockers in the league, but if Markkanen’s bounceback night in Sacramento is going to catalyze a turnaround, this is a matchup he has to win.

Side note: Coby White showed out against the Grizzlies earlier in the season, scoring 25 points (11 in the fourth quarter). Big Coby nights are appointment television, and he could find opportunity to get going again in this one. 

Injury/miscellaneous updates

As mentioned, Morant and Clarke both won’t play for Memphis, tonight. Kyle Anderson (heel) is officially questionable, and head coach Taylor Jenkins called Valanciunas (illness), who has missed the last two games, a gametime decision.

Per Jim Boylen, both Otto Porter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison will undergo follow-up MRIs today and will remain inactive until further notice. Barring an unforeseen development, there’s no reason to believe Boylen will turn away from Kris Dunn in the starting lineup until one or both of those two return.

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Former Bull Joakim Noah still searching for team after summer injury

Former Bull Joakim Noah still searching for team after summer injury

Former Bulls center Joakim Noah reportedly suffered what sounded like a potentially career-ending injury, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. Windhorst reported the news on Monday on The Hoop Collective Podcast, but has since walked it back. 

Windhorst initially made it sound like this injury could end Noah's career. 

"I don't know when he got injured but he suffered a significant injury from what I've been told and his career is really in jeopardy," Windhorst said.

It has yet to be reported what the injury is at this time.

The 34-year-old played for the Bulls from 2007 to 2016, playing 572 games. During the 2013-14 season with the Bulls he won the Defensive Player of the Year Award and was named first-team All-NBA.  

Noah was recently in Chicago for the Bulls game against the Detroit Pistons to see another former Bull, Derrick Rose. Watch them reunite in the video above.

He signed a four-year deal with the New York Knicks for $72 million, a deal fans considered questionable at best when Noah needed multiple surgeries and had to serve a 20-game league suspension for violating the NBA’s anti-drug policy. The Knicks released Noah in 2018 and he spent the remainder of the 2018-19 season with the Memphis Grizzlies, averaging 7.1 points and 5.7 rebounds.

Noah is currently unsigned but was supposedly being considered for a bench spot on the Lakers or the Clippers, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and The Athletic’s Shams Charania respectively.

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