By Mike McGraw
Bulls fans should remember that the "Bench Mob" wasn't built in a day.
During the preseason opener Tuesday night against Memphis, the Bulls' starters played well, while the revamped reserves were a borderline disaster.
With subs on the floor, the Bulls hit a remarkably putrid 1 of 21 shots from the field in the fourth quarter but managed to hold off Memphis 92-88 at the United Center.
"I know we were speeding a lot, 100 miles per hour at times, but you're just excited to be out there, back on the court with new teammates," Taj Gibson said. "Things are going to happen."
The Bulls spent most of the fourth quarter with Gibson anchoring the second unit, along with Nazr Mohammed, Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli and Jimmy Butler.
Mohammed (13 points, 12 rebounds) and Robinson (13 points) played reasonably well, but Gibson, Belinelli and Butler combined to hit 3 of 25 shots and got nothing to go in in the fourth quarter.
"You've got a new group of guys and everybody's trying to go out there and show coach what they can do," Mohammed said. "Also, just the rhythm wasn't quite there and a little fatigue.
"It's a mixture of things, but I think they can be corrected. With a little time, we're going to get better."
The Bulls led by 16 late in the third quarter and were ahead 89-78 with 3:26 left when Gibson hit 2 free throws. Then, while everyone expected a coast to the finish, the home team gave up a 10-0 run and the Grizzlies closed within 89-88 with 27 seconds left on a layup by rookie Tony Wroten.
Robinson and Gibson responded by hitting 3 of 4 free throws, and the Bulls pulled out a preseason win. The team shot 35.7 percent overall and hit just 2 of 14 attempts from 3-point range.
"I thought we held on to the ball too much in the fourth quarter," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "(Memphis) did a good job of collapsing on the ball, and I didn't think we were sustaining our spacing and I also didn't think we were making the right reads.
"Just keep the ball moving freely, and when we did that, we got good shots."
Among the good news Tuesday was an 18-point performance from Luol Deng. Kirk Hinrich's return to the Bulls featured 7 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocked shots. Richard Hamilton looked more like his usual self, scoring 13 points.
Joakim Noah was back with the team after the death of his grandmother, started the game and produced 10 points, 7 boards and 4 assists.
The reason for the Bulls' big lead is they outscored Memphis 32-13 in the third quarter. Most of that success, though, came from the Bulls' starters dominating a lineup of subs.
The Grizzlies sat Marc Gasol and Tony Allen at the start of the third quarter and played Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay just three minutes.
"The fourth quarter, obviously, we struggled," Thibodeau said. "But it does reveal a lot of things to us, so we know what we have to do."