Chicago Bulls hold on to beat Memphis at a quiet UC

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine (8) is defended by Memphis Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks (24) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019, in Chicago.

    Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine (8) is defended by Memphis Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks (24) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019, in Chicago.

 
 
Updated 12/4/2019 10:25 PM

The best word to describe the Bulls' lackluster victory over Memphis on Wednesday night was quiet.

That means it was literally quiet. No atmosphere at all inside the United Center.

 

There's a good reason for that. The announced crowd of 15,017 was the smallest for a Bulls game in 15 years. They drew 14,403 on Dec. 16, 2004, against Milwaukee.

This could have been the first appearance by No. 2 overall draft pick Ja Morant, so it was a game with some appeal. Morant is out with a back injury, though, and sat on the Memphis bench in street clothes.

On the positive side, those in attendance got to see the Bulls record their first winning streak of the season. They beat the Grizzlies 106-99, successfully following up Monday's victory at Sacramento.

The Bulls jumped out to a 13-2 advantage and led by 22 points in the second quarter. When Memphis closed within a point in the fourth quarter, the Bulls answered with a flurry of jumpers to put the game away.

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"We're learning how to win," coach Jim Boylen said after the game. "We're learning how to make plays when we need to. I thought last game in Sacramento and tonight we did. That's growth for us. This league is about those moments.

"A lot of times when you win the first quarter, that's the difference in the game. And we won by 7, so those are things we talk about.

Most of the postgame noise was praise for Zach Lavine, who kept up his hot shooting with 25 points. When the Grizzlies (6-15) closed within 88-87 with 4:27 remaining on a corner 3-pointer by Jae Crowder, the Bulls had a nice response.

LaVine hit a 3-pointer and a long jumper. Then he dished it off to Kris Dunn, one of the league's worst 3-point shooters. But Dunn calmly buried the shot, his second 3-pointer of the night. When Lauri Markkanen added a 3 about a minute later, the Bulls were back in control with a 101-90 lead.

"Nobody panicked, nothing, just everybody stayed calm and we talked about what we're going to do and we executed the things we wanted to do," Markkanen said. "Obviously guys made big shots down the stretch, that helps."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

LaVine has been shooting it well since his career-high 49 point game at Charlotte on Nov. 23. In this one, he hit 7 of 13 shots from the field.

"I thought he was terrific out there," Boylen said. "He was poised and stepped up and made big plays. He just played the right way, let it come to him. Then, like great players do, he took over at the end. When it was his time, he answered the bell."

The Bulls (8-14) continued with an underappreciated skill -- guarding the 3-point line. Heading into Wednesday's action, the Bulls ranked third in the NBA in opponents' 3-point percentage at .330.

The Grizzlies took that to new depths by going 0-for-15 from long range during the first half. They missed their first attempt of the third quarter, as well, before Jaren Jackson Jr. finally knocked one down at the 7:30 mark of the third. Memphis finished the night 7-for-29 from behind the arc (24.1 percent).

Besides Morant, the Grizzlies also were missing rookie power forward Brandon Clarke (oblique) and forward Kyle Anderson (heel). Center Jonas Valanciunas led Memphis with 32 points and 13 rebounds.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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