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Memphis Grizzlies vs. Chicago Bulls MLK Jr. Day Game Preview

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On a day for remembrance and service, the Grizzlies hope to start a run of success.

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

WHO: Memphis Grizzlies (25-17, 14-7 home) vs. Chicago Bulls (20-21, 8-13 road)

WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee

WHEN: 8:00 PM CT

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: ESPN/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis

INJURY REPORT-

MEMPHIS- Brandan Wright (Out, ankle)

CHICAGO- Dwyane Wade (Out, rest), Nikola Mirotic (Out, illness)

PROJECTED STARTERS-

MEMPHIS- Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Chandler Parsons, JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol

CHICAGO- Michael Carter-Williams, Jimmy Butler, Doug McDermott, Taj Gibson, Robin Lopez


Regardless of what day the game takes place, the Martin Luther King Jr. Day events that occur in and around the city are some of the best things the Memphis Grizzlies organization does all season long. Whether it is the National Civil Rights Museum’s Sports Legacy honorees having discussion of race with Head Coach David Fizdale and Marc Spears of ESPN or the day of service the entire Grizzlies roster will take part in on Monday, the call to serve and remember is answered quite well by the Grizzlies.

The game itself has become an annual tradition in Memphis- a home game for the Grizzlies, on national television. This year, things are a bit different with the introduction of new alternate jerseys that Memphis will wear for the first time tonight to honor Dr. King-

The assassination of Dr. King will always be a dark and tragic moment in Memphis history. But through the work of the Grizzlies, the National Civil Rights Museum, and countless others in and around the Bluff City, his legacy lives on in a message of unifying to make the world a place in which we all have the opportunity to achieve our dreams. The Dream of Dr. King is not yet achieved. But in Memphis, the pursuit of that dream is alive and well for many who wish to live in a world where character, not color, is what matters.

On the the actual contest at hand- the game tonight against the Chicago Bulls. The Memphis Grizzlies, after another big road comeback victory against a member of the NBA elite (the Houston Rockets), are looking to go on a run the next few weeks. As the roster heals up and players get used to new roles (Tony Allen the point guard?), where there are holes and possible necessary moves to make the roster as ready as possible for the playoffs will start to shine through.

That continues tonight against a Bulls team that is a bit undermanned. Can the Grizzlies take advantage?

NO DWYANE WADE- WHO STEPS UP FOR CHICAGO?

NBA: Chicago Bulls at New York Knicks Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The major addition in free agency to the Bulls did not make the trip to Memphis for tonight’s contest due to rest. Chicago is on the second night of a back to back in this game, and the Bulls at large will likely be a bit tired after their game against the Pelicans last night in Chicago.

Jimmy Butler will obviously play a huge role in tonight’s outcome- 25 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.5 assists per game will lead one to that conclusion- but who replaces Wade’s production bears watching. Doug McDermott figures to have a larger role, but others will need to rise to the occasions for the Bulls as well. Could the recently bench Rajon Rondo earn some trust back with a big performance tonight?

DEFEND THE GLASS

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago is among the best teams in the NBA at rebounding the basketball. Considering the guys on their team in the frontcourt- Robin Lopez, Taj Gibson- this is a bit surprising. Those two only average a little over seven rebounds a game, each. Where the Bulls get it done is in team rebounding- Butler (6.7 boards per game), Rondo (6.3), and Carter-Williams (4.5) all attack the glass pretty well considering they are perimeter players first. The Bulls are especially great at cleaning the offensive glass- no NBA team has gathered more offensive rebounds than Chicago, according to basketball-reference.com.

The Bulls are not the best shooting team in the NBA. They are 28th in the NBA in shooting percentage (unfortunately the Grizzlies are 30th), but their ability to get offensive boards can keep them hanging around in games. The Grizzlies have to prioritize holding the Bulls to one shot attempt and clearing the boards so they can get as many chances as possible for their own scoring-challenged offense.

THE PREDICTION

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Chicago Bulls Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bulls are not very good on the second night of a back to back. On the season they are 3-5, with those three wins coming against the Lakers, Pacers, and Heat. Not exactly a Murderer’s Row of NBA teams. Combine that with the fact that Wade and Nikola Mirotic and their 28.3 points per game will not be on the floor, and this is a game ripe for the picking for the Memphis Grizzlies.

Unfortunately, these are the kinds of games Memphis has dropped of late. It will be up to the leadership of the Grizzlies- Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, and Tony Allen- who have played in MLK Jr. Games plenty of times in Memphis- to start this thing fast and power through a Bulls team that should not be able to hang. Of course, this likely means they will.

Until the end, at least. Chicago keeps it a game until Marc Gasol and Mike Conley lead a closing run to put away the Bulls.

Memphis 93, Chicago 87

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