Anyone who is still watching Bulls games at this point is undoubtedly familiar with all the different versions of this team. There are the “National TV Chicago Bulls”, a team that plays with effort and energy on both sides of the ball. There are the “Can’t Miss Chicago Bulls,” a team filled with marksmen who spread the defense out and take advantage of their shooting ability at all five positions. And then, there are “Not Really In The Mood Chicago Bulls,” the team that probably has the largest slice on the pie chart of which group has shown up the most this season. It was on prominent display Tuesday in Memphis.
- The Bulls looked flat on offense from the opening tip. The lack of ball and player movement in the first quarter – following an off day – was downright embarrassing. Over and over again, the Bulls settled for contested jump shots early in the shot clock after just one or two passes, never settling into any type of rhythm or flow. For a team wrapping up it’s 78th game of the season, the Bulls tonight played like a group of complete strangers.
- Despite the groggy start on offense, the Bulls were able to hang tight for the first eight minutes of the game. Zach Randolph made just one of his first six field goal attempts while being defended by Bobby Portis in the post. But when Portis was subbed out for Nikola Mirotic and Randolph found himself switched onto Pau Gasol, the Grizzlies quickly built a lead they never relinquished. Z-Bo came on strong after his cold start and eventually finished with a game high 27 points on 10/19 shooting. The veteran power forward also grabbed 10 rebounds, five offensive, to go along with four assists and two steals. Randolph brutalized Gasol in the post all night, proving that excellent footwork and body control can more than make up for a lack of height and athleticism.
- Fred Hoiberg did not take advantage of the opportunity to play Doug McDermott big minutes against a team lacking any threat on the wing capable of punishing Doug on defense. On a night the Bulls desperately needed an injection of energy into the offense, Doug McDermott played just 24 minutes off the bench. McDermott scored 7 points on 3/5 shooting and was a complete afterthought in the game plan. The beautiful hammer plays that the Bulls were frequently running during McDermott’s hot run in late February and early March were absent from the playbook Tuesday. It’s hard to watch one of the only guys on the team who is clearly a part of the organization’s future become a non-factor in a must win game.
- A man who looked strikingly similar to Jimmy Butler started at shooting guard for the Bulls and failed to score a point until the game was far out of reach in the fourth quarter. The Butler impostor finished 2/8 from the field and lacked any sort of explosion going to the rim or intensity on defense. After the real Jimmy put on a 9/10 performance against Milwaukee on Sunday and a heroic triple double the night before that, it’s a shame this two-bit impersonator filled in against the Grizzlies.
- Nikola Mirotic’s hot shooting streak continued. Mirotic was the only Bull with any accuracy from deep in this game and accounted for six of Chicago’s 11 made three point shots. All nine of Mirotic’s field goal attempts came from behind the arc, which is totally fine if he’s splashing home 2/3 of his attempts.
- Derrick Rose finished with a line of 12 points, five rebounds, eight assists and five turnovers. Rose, who played his one year of college basketball in Memphis, shot a very poor 5/15 from the field, including 0/3 from three. Rose attempted only one bank shot all game, a shot I’ve noticed he has gone away from recently after it using it with great success in prior months. Rose is at his best when he makes up for his decreased athleticism with intelligent shot selection. That was not the case Tuesday.
- It’s one thing to lose big to the Memphis Grit-n-Grind Grizzlies of the last half decade. This is not that team. Marc Gasol and Mike Conley are both done for the season, and the Grizzlies have had to find production from unusual places to maintain the fifth seed in the Western Conference. Against the Bulls, Jordan Farmar started and scored 15 points on 50% shooting. Vince Carter scored 17 points in 24 minutes on an array of difficult jump shots. Some dude named Xavier Munford knocked in a pair of three pointers. While talent is the most important factor in a team’s success in the NBA, the Grizzlies showed Chicago how consistently putting forth your best effort for 48 minutes can make up for any gap in player pedigree. If the Bulls can’t muster the fight to take down this banged up team, they don’t deserve the make the playoffs.
- Coming up: the Bulls head to Miami on Thursday night.