The Bulls were playing their fourth game in five nights to close a five-game road trip against a tough Grizzlies team, but that doesn’t make it any less disappointing that they pissed away another winnable game. Despite Memphis playing like total crap offensively for three quarter, Chicago wasn’t able to get any real separation before getting destroyed in the fourth quarter in a 101-90 loss.
The Bulls led by four points heading into the final frame, only to get steamrolled 31-16 as nobody could hit a shot and the Grizzlies finally started to hit their mark. While Chicago ran out of gas and shot an almost unfathomable 6-of-23 overall and 0-of-11 from 3 in the fourth (they missed their last 15 3-point attempts to finish 5-of-31), Memphis shot 11-of-18 from the field and 3-of-4 from 3 after shooting just 43.3% overall and 6-of-24 from deep through three quarters.
It was a team-wide failure. Zach LaVine had 21 points and nine assists for the game, but he shot just 1-of-6 in the fourth quarter and had a few ugly turnovers. Nikola Vucevic didn’t score in the fourth, was badly outplayed by Jonas Valanciunas (26 and 14) and was a team-worst minus-19 overall along with Tomas Satoransky, who was absolutely awful all game. Sato, Patrick Williams (he ended finally ended his long scoreless streak in the fourth quarter), Coby White, Troy Brown Jr. and Lauri Markkanen combined to score 12 points in 115 minutes of action. Markkanen went scoreless for the first time in his career and has been largely invisible during this three-game losing streak.
If anybody played well, it was Thaddeus Young and Daniel Theis. Young had 20 points on 10-of-15 shooting as he did a number inside, but he only played 20 minutes for the game and 3:35 in the fourth quarter. While the spacing can sometimes be a bit wonky with Young on the floor, it was odd to see him play so few minutes despite being productive. Theis, meanwhile, had 18 points, four rebounds and two assists off the bench in 27 minutes.
This game was truly grimy from the start. The Bulls fell behind by nine points early despite the Grizzlies turning it over at will (seven first-quarter turnovers and 20 for the game), but that gap was erased by the end of the first quarter that saw each team only manage 22 points. It then looked like Chicago was going to build a big lead, with Theis going to work early in the second quarter. The Bulls built a nine-point advantage before the home team ended the half on a 16-6 run for a 48-47 Grizzlies lead at the break.
It again looked like Chicago was going to take control in the third quarter as Vucevic had his one good quarter (12 of his 17 points), and the lead was eight with three minutes to play in the frame. But a disastrous close to the quarter by White helped Memphis stay in it, setting up the fourth-quarter debacle.
This loss might sting even more than the Timberwolves one given how poorly the Grizzlies played offensively for three quarters. The Bulls were just never able to really pull away because of their own struggles, and Memphis blew the doors off them when the game really mattered. I know it was the end of a lengthy road trip and there was likely a fatigue factor, but the Grizzlies were also playing the second of a back-to-back and just looked way more poised down the stretch.
The Bulls are now 22-31 and 1.5 games ahead of the Raptors. Wednesday back at home in Chicago against the tanking Magic should be a cupcake game, so the Bulls better come out and kick some ass.