Any discussion of Doug McDermott not yet being over his concussion might finally be over after this evening.
Shooty McNickname, Der McDougmott, Ray, whatever you may call him, had a career night tonight as the Chicago Bulls went into Tennessee on the second night of a back-to-back and took down a tough Memphis Grizzlies team 108-104. The win pushed the Bulls back up to .500 and featured a thrilling fourth quarter that saw several lead changes but ultimately favored the Bulls thanks once again to some late-game hero ball from Jimmy Butler.
Paul Zipser got his second career start to kick off the first quarter and actually led the Bulls in scoring through the opening six minutes of the game (though he also had two turnovers during that stretch). However, other than Jimmy Butler, most of the Bulls struggled to get it going early on in the contest, as they proceeded to go on a stretch that saw them miss eleven consecutive shots (three of them air balls). On the other end, Memphis got a nice early contribution from JaMychal Green’s hot shooting, which allowed them to stay in front of Chicago for the entirety of the quarter. Neither team played well offensively to start, but the Bulls were particularly awful for the first twelve minutes. They shot 27.3% from the field as a team, missed all six of their three point attempts, and hit a mere two of their nine attempts from the freethrow line. As a result, the Bulls concluded the first quarter down 19-14.
Doug McDermott helped get the team back on track offensively to begin the the second quarter by delivering the Bulls their first three pointer of the evening (after nine attempts) and scoring a layup setup by a beautiful bounce pass from Rajon Rondo. He then proceeded to make three straight freethrows before completing a four-point play to tie the game at 28 apiece... and he didn’t stop there!
Doug knocked in another three on the next posession to give him fifteen straight points scored for the Bulls. After a Rondo layup, McDermott knocked in an And-1 off a jumpshot and then put in another layup on the next posession to give himself 22 points with five minutes remaining in the half. Though the Grizzlies went on to total 27 points for the quarter thanks primarily to Marc Gasol, the rest of the Bulls managed to do just enough to conclude the period with a 52-46 halftime lead. McDermott’s total offensive output for the quarter amounted to 20 points on 6-7 shooting from the field and 5-5 shooting from the freethrow line, with his lone miss coming from beyond the arc.
The third quarter saw some great offensive play from Chicago despite the team once again failing to register a single make from three point range. The Bulls all did an excellent job of getting to the basket for easy looks and drawing fouls to pick up freethrows. Robin Lopez also had one of the most hilarious not-really-an-assists you will ever see in a basketball game:
Michael Carter-Williams in particular did an excellent job of getting to the basket, and although Jimmy Butler wasn’t scoring much himself, he along with Taj Gibson and Robin Lopez rebounded the ball very well against a tall Memphis front line. Unfortnately, the Bulls fell victim to a sequence later in the third that saw the Grizzlies hit threes on three consecutive posessions from Vince Carter and Mike Conley. Making matters worse, Zach Randolph managed to hit a triple just before the buzzer sounded to cut the lead to a single posession. Still, the Bulls managed to play well enough on offense as a team to enter the final quarter of play with a 78-77 lead.
The Bulls opened the fourth quarter with a quick 6-0 run, but poor defense allowed the Grizzlies to counter with a 10-2 run of their own to take the lead. Taj Gibson quickly countered with an And-1 dunk to put the Bulls back in front, but Conley hit a jumper to tie the game and then Randolph made a tip-in to put the Grizzlies back up two. Robin Lopez then scored an And-1 hookshot on the next posession to recapture the lead, but Mike Conley responded with a jumper to once again put Memphis up by one. Jimmy Butler then stepped up and made his first three of the game to give the Bulls a two point lead heading into the final four minutes.
Conley knotted the game at 100-all with a minute and a half remaining, but Taj Gibson managed to put home yet another dunk from the baseline to give the Bulls the lead again. Memphis tied the game again with a layup under the basket on the next posession, but then Butler stepped up (or rather, stepped back) to hit a huge two pointer to put the Bulls in front with under a minute remaining. Conley hit another jumper to tie the game on the next posession, but then Butler got the ball back and split the defense to pull up and hit a jumper of his own from the freethrow line for the lead. It’s worth noting at this point that Doug Collins tried to refer to Butler by his Stacey King-given nickname “Jimmy G Buckets,” only to fumble on the broadcast and call him “Jimmy B Buckets, the ‘B’ stands for ‘Buckets!’”
The Grizzlies called a timeout and drew up a play for Conley, but all it resulted in was Conley attempting an early-in-the-shot-clock three (with his foot on the line) that clanked and was promptly boarded by McDermott. After getting fouled, McDermott knocked in both freethrows and Butler stole the inbounds pass to seal the victory for Chicago. The final score wound up 108-104 in favor of the Bulls.
McDermott finished with 31 points on 9-16 shooting, which as mentioned in the beginning proved to be both his season and career high. His twenty point explosion in the second period proved to be the most significant part of this game for Chicago, as it not only got them back in the contest but also powered them to a 38 point quarter, which tied their high for the season. Butler had one of his more quiet games of the season until the closing minutes, finishing with 16 points on 6-14 shooting with eight rebounds, six assists, and three steals. Taj Gibson played brilliantly on both ends all evening and finished with 18 points on 7-14 shooting to go along with eight rebounds. For the Grizzlies, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley combined for 52 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists; but poor games from Chandler Parsons and James Ennis ultimately doomed Memphis. Zach Randolph did have a 15/16 double-double off the bench, with eight of his rebounds coming on the offensive end.
This turned out to be a great win for short-handed Bulls team in one of the most challenging road venues in the NBA. Hopefully, Doug McDermott will build some consistent confidence going forward after having the best performance of his career this evening. The Bulls will next play at home on Tuesday against a struggling Dallas Mavericks squad.