The Grizzlies started a four-game road trip on the wrong foot in last night’s 106-99 loss to the Chicago Bulls. Despite a huge effort from Jonas Valanciunas (32 points; 13 rebounds), the Grizzlies could not overcome a weak first half. The Grizzlies faced the Chicago Bulls for the second time this season after losing to them early in the season 110-102. Last night, the Grizzlies were without Ja Morant, Kyle Anderson and Brandon Clarke.
The game undoubtedly started strong for the Chicago Bulls. The Grizzlies had to call an early timeout within the first minute-and-a-half when the Bulls started on a 7-0 run, including points off of an early turnover by the Grizzlies. Both the contributions and mistakes were spread evenly among the Grizzlies’ roster, while Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen combined for 18 of the Bulls’ 27 first-quarter points. Tyus Jones and Jae Crowder helped the Grizzlies cut into the lead, and the Grizz were also spared by two early illegal screens committed by the Bulls. The Grizzlies were set to close the quarter by cutting the lead to four, but Ryan Arcidiacono drained a three at the buzzer to extend the lead to seven, 27-20.
The second quarter started abysmally for the Grizzlies as the Bulls’ bench brought exponentially more offensive energy. Denzel Valentine went on a shooting streak for the Bulls, and the Grizzlies could not execute anything of their own on offense. Less than half way through the quarter, the Grizzlies were down sixteen to the Bulls and had only contributed 4 points and the deficit quickly grew to twenty-two. While there were plenty of opportunities for the Grizzlies to capitalize on turnovers, they simply could not score the basketball for the majority of the quarter.
At the half, the Grizzlies had made no three-point shots. That’s right, zero. The Grizzlies worked hard on the defensive side of the ball, including nine steals in the first half, but it was not until late second-quarter offensive momentum that the Grizzlies were able to stop the hemorrhage and shrink a 22—point deficit to 15 by the close of the half.
It appeared as though the Bulls came out of halftime sustaining momentum, but the Grizzlies were able quickly to shrink the lead to nine with the help of some free throws from Dillon Brooks and Jaren Jackson Jr. The Grizzlies picked up the pace on offense, but a few big plays by the Bulls — a LaVine dunk and a Markkanen three-pointer — kept the Bulls’ lead hovering at double-digits midway through the third quarter.
A big three-point shot by Jae Crowder reduced the lead to six. The Grizzlies got in their own way at times, including Dillon Brooks’ fourth foul on Zach LaVine that sent LaVine to the line to shoot three free throws. Despite the fact that the Grizzlies made offensive inroads on the lead and outscored the Bulls 29 versus 28 points in the third quarter, a few big plays by the Bulls late in the quarter extended their lead to fourteen.
To start the fourth quarter, a Grayson Allen layup after a Jaren Jackson Jr. block reduced the Chicago lead to eight. Dillon Brooks and Jaren Jackson Jr. each found themselves with five fouls early in the quarter, and the Bulls’ free throws kept the Grizzlies from being able to continue chipping away at the Chicago advantage, and the Grizzlies called an early timeout to attempt to right the ship when the lead swelled to twelve. Grayson Allen made a quick dunk out of the timeout, followed by a jumper by Valanciunas to get the Grizzlies back within eight.
Fouls continued to plague the Grizzlies, giving the Bulls additional opportunities to stifle the Grizzlies’ momentum. Nonetheless, triples from both Jae Crowder and Grayson Allen helped to cut the lead to one. Where three-pointers were nonexistent to for the Grizzlies in the first half, they were the Grizzlies fighting chance in the fourth quarter. What transpired next was a series of Chicago’s own three-pointers by LaVine and Markkanen that evaporated any hope the Grizzlies had of stealing the road win against the Bulls.
The Grizzlies ultimately fell to the Bulls 106-99, despite a 32-point and 13-rebound double-double performance from a recovering Jonas Valanciunas, and now the Grizzlies hope for more success in their next three road games against the Jazz, Warriors and Suns.