The Bulls fumbling away the Celtics game on Saturday was especially painful given the schedule this week, and sure enough, Monday’s MLK Day matinee in Memphis against an awesome Grizzlies team wasn’t pretty. The Bulls stayed in the game early because the Grizzlies were just as bad as they were, but once the hosts started to get things going, the visitors had no chance in a 119-106 loss as they continue to struggle with so many key guys out.
The first quarter was truly heinous basketball, with both teams throwing up a lot of bricks and throwing the ball all over the place. The Bulls turned it over eight times in the opening frame against a chaotic Grizzlies defense, but Memphis shot just 9-of-26 and missed all six 3-pointers. The result was a 20-20 score after one.
The Grizzlies then turned on the jets and went on a 16-0 run early in the second quarter, with Desmond Bane doing the majority of the damage. The Bulls were able to stem the tide somewhat and kind of hung around thanks to their role players, but certainly no thanks to the star duo of Nikola Vucevic and DeMar DeRozan.
Vooch played arguably his worst half of the season in the opening two quarters, scoring zero points on 0-of-4 shooting and generally looking totally useless. DeRozan wasn’t much better as his January slide continues, tallying 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting in the opening half. Strong performances from those two would have had this game more competitive at half, but instead it was a 58-45 deficit, with the first half capped off by this defensive mess:
The @memgrizz finish the half strong with the dunk by Brandon Clarke— NBA (@NBA) January 17, 2022
Halftime on TNT! pic.twitter.com/VRjeSJA9aP
The Bulls continued to kind of hang around to start the third quarter, but then the wheels totally came off by the end of the frame as the Grizzlies went up by as many as 23 points. That margin got up to 28 points early in the fourth quarter before the Bulls made things a little more respectable in garbage time, though the Grizzlies turned garbage time into a highlight show. There was also a rather hilarious kerfuffle between Tony Bradley and Steven Adams:
Steven Adams is definitely a guy that you want on your team pic.twitter.com/6Jf7MXyriT— The Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) January 17, 2022
DeRozan wound up with a team-high 24 points, but he shot 10-of-24 to get there and had four turnovers to five assists and didn’t grab a single rebound. Vucevic wound up with seven points on 2-of-13 shooting in a truly dreadful performance, even if he did rack up 10 rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals.
A legitimate bright spot was rookie Ayo Dosunmu on his 22nd birthday. Ayo was making plays from the very start and did a relatively admirable job at times on Ja Morant, and the rook finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, five steals and two blocks. He did have some bad turnovers, but on an otherwise ugly night for the Bulls, Ayo was awesome.
Fellow Illini legend Malcolm Hill also had a nice game with 12 points and eight rebounds after it was reported earlier Monday by Shams that he’s getting a two-way contract, with Devon Dotson getting waived. Hill and Ayo were the main reasons this game stayed semi-competitive in the first half.
Coby White (16 points), Troy Brown Jr. (14 points) and Matt Thomas (13 points) all had nice shooting games, but defense was a struggle, for more than just these guys of course. The Grizzlies shot 51.1% from the field and 10-of-25 from 3-point range. They racked up 64 points in the paint and 26 fast-break points, destroying the Bulls in both categories. This is what they do, and the Bulls just have little hope of stopping anybody given their current personnel.
Even so, it was tough to see the Bulls get destroyed again, even if I had zero expectation of winning this game going in. The first-half performances by Vucevic and DeRozan were both brutal, with Vooch just painful to watch. Needless to say, the Bulls just don’t have a chance right now when those guys play like this.
The Bulls have now lost four games in a row but still momentarily sit on top of the East thanks to the Cavaliers beating the Nets. The red-hot Cavs are coming to the United Center on Wednesday, and there’s currently little reason to think Chicago will win that game. The good news is Alex Caruso might be back, albeit on a minutes restriction if he does play. We’ll see if they actually get any reinforcements back.