Without DeRozan, Bulls can't hold late lead at Memphis
This was a game that seemed to move in slow motion. And like a windup toy, the Bulls slowly settled to a complete halt by the end.
After erasing a 15-point deficit, the Bulls headed into the fourth quarter with a lead. But playing the second leg of back-to-back games, they ran out of gas, while the Grizzlies pulled away for a 104-89 victory Tuesday in Memphis.
While the Grizzlies outscored the Bulls 32-14 in the fourth quarter, they shot 68.4% from the field in the final 12 minutes, compared to 26.3% for the Bulls. The Bulls produced their lowest-scoring first half of the season, and the 14 points in the fourth was the lowest-scoring quarter.
"We lost our rhythm offensively," Bulls coach Billy Donovan told reporters after the game. "When I say we lost our rhythm, I think the effort was there, I thought the compete was there. Just stylistically we didn't do the things well enough that got us that lead in the third quarter."
DeMar DeRozan sat out because of right hip soreness, his fourth missed game this season. Donovan said before the game the training staff wanted to be cautious on the second leg of back-to-back games. Alex Caruso did return after missing two games and most of a third with left foot soreness.
Center Nikola Vucevic rose to the occasion, finishing with 28 points, 17 rebounds and 6 assists. Zach LaVine set a career-high with 17 free-throw attempts, but made just 10 and finished with 24 points. Ayo Dosunmu had a nice game with 14 points and 6 assists.
As a team, the Bulls shot 67% from the foul line, hitting 18 of 27 attempts. After the game, Donovan was asked if LaVine is still bothered by the finger injury he suffered a couple weeks ago.
"I'm sure that's still bothering him, to what extent I'm not sure," he said. "We have not been a team that's gotten to the free-throw line enough and this was a game we got there. We got downhill, we were aggressive, we got there. We just didn't capitalize."
The Bulls missed their first 11 shots from 3-point land and finished the game 7 of 35 from long range. Some other negatives were quiet games from Coby White (4 points) and Patrick Williams (9 points), and there was no Andre Drummond magic on his night.
Ja Morant led the Grizzlies (33-21) with 34 points, while Jaren Jackson Jr. added 24. Memphis has been on a wild ride lately. The Grizzlies had won 11 in a row before an overtime loss to the Lakers on Jan. 20 that was best known for former NFL tight end Shannon Sharpe barking from the sideline.
Since then, Memphis has dropped eight of nine, and are feeling the absence of center Steven Adams, who missed his eighth straight game with a knee injury.
The Bulls opened the third quarter with a 33-15 run to go from 10 down to an 8-point lead. They headed into to the fourth with a 75-72 lead.
This was the last game for the Bulls before the NBA trade deadline hits on Thursday afternoon. They have two games left on this trip, in Brooklyn on Thursday and Cleveland on Saturday. In theory, the Bulls' roster could look different the next time they take the court.
"I guess the way I would look at it from my perspective, I know I really like our guys a lot in terms of working with them and where the heart and spirit's at," Donovan said. "I think (president of basketball operations) Arturas (Karnisovas) likes this group as much as I do. We want to continue to see these guys get better."
Original Windy City Bull Spencer Dinwiddie is expected to make his Nets return and Dorian Finney-Smith his Brooklyn debut on Thursday after the Kyrie Irving trade. The talk of the NBA, though, has been Brooklyn's Cam Thomas, the second-year guard from LSU who became the youngest player in league history to score 40 points in three straight games on Tuesday.