With 4:27 remaining in the fourth quarter, Memphis Grizzlies forward Jae Crowder nailed a corner 3-pointer, bringing the Grizzlies to within one point of the lead after trailing by as many as 22 earlier in the game.
This is when the deja vu really began to hit; the unsettling feeling the Bulls would blow another lead and rack up another loss against a bad opponent and that first two-game winning streak of the season would elude the team yet again.
But like he has done in many of the Bulls most vulnerable points of the season, Zach LaVine took over. He finished the game with 25 points, nine of them coming in the fourth quarter. Lauri Markkanen hit four of his eight 3-point field goals including a key one with just over a minute to play to put the Bulls up 11.
The Bulls needed just about every one of LaVine’s and Markkanen’s contributions late after starting the fourth quarter 0-for-7 from the field and letting a Grizzlies team playing without Ja Morant back into the game.
After finding themselves down by 15 at halftime, the Grizzlies began to nibble at that deficit. They cut it to within nine points within the first three minutes of the third quarter and they just kept on nibbling. But for the second time of the game (at the end of the first quarter was the other), a Bulls bench unit extended Chicago’s advantage at the end of the quarter this time to 14 points. The Bulls bench was pretty good in this one; everybody scored and everybody had a positive +/- in the game.
A fast start gave the Bulls a little bit of breathing room early as they sprinted out to a 13-2 lead against Jaren Jackson Jr., Jae Crowder, Jonas Valanciunas and a bunch of other Grizzlies players you probably have just heard of in passing or remember for what they did in college. At the end of the first quarter the Bulls led 27-20, a Ryan Arcidiacono buzzer 3-pointer increased the lead to seven when the Grizzlies had cut it to four and had most of the momentum.
Markkanen started the game 2-for-3 from 3-point land with eight points. He put in his second solid effort in as many games, finishing with 15 points on 5-for-9 from the field.
Early in the game, the Bulls went with a lineup of Daniel Gafford, Arch, Valentine, Coby White, and Thaddeus Young for a long time, keeping LaVine and Markkanen on the bench for awhile. Just looking at these guys +/- numbers at that point in the game, the unit was around a +8 or +9 together and really helped the Bulls propel the lead forward to start the second quarter.
Denzel Valentine was a +8 in his first nine minutes of playing time, scoring eight points on 3-for-4 from the field. The Bulls led by 15 points at the end of the first half, 50-35. For the Grizzlies, the 35 points were tied for the second fewest first half points of the season for any team.
Five players had at least seven points and the Bulls finished the half with six blocks and held the Grizzlies to 29.2 percent from the field.
The Bulls ended up winning by seven points, although not many were on hand to see it happen.
#Bulls official attendance tonight is 15,017. Based on my quick research, that's the smallest announced crowd since Dec. 16, 2004, when they drew 14,403 vs. Bucks.— Mike McGraw (@McGrawDHBulls) December 5, 2019
That was right around when the great Skiles' turnaround of 2004-05 began.
The Bulls have another winnable game against the Golden State Warriors on Friday.