One of the more undervalued traditions that the NBA does each season is that every Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Memphis Grizzlies play a home game to honor the Civil Rights Leader. One day after beating the New Orleans Pelicans and Anthony Davis, the Bulls hopped on their charter to play in the annual MLK game at the FedEx Forum. Memphis is about the last team you want to play in a back-to-back, because of how hard they play and the mentality they had as a team.
Proving they are one the best fan bases in the league, the FedEx Forum was filled with navy blue. The Bulls sported their typical red road jerseys, while the Grizzlies sported their alternate dark blue sleeved jersey. Robin Lopez squared off against superstar Marc Gasol at center court, and Bulls basketball was on the air. Continuing to serve as the starter in lieu of the struggling Rajon Rondo, Michael Carter-Williams gained possession off Lopez winning the tip. Taking advantage of his start tonight, Paul Zipser was the first player to register a point in the game. As one might expect when playing the Grizzlies, the quarter started out very slow, and points were at a premium. Both teams occasionally got the ball to sink home, as the first half of the quarter wasn’t very eventful. As the first quarter pushed on, the Bulls offense continued to spiral. Missing open jump shots, free throws, and inefficient basketball led to the Bulls scoring fourteen points in the first quarter. However, Memphis wasn’t able to capitalize on the Bulls poor offense in the first. The score after one was 19-14, in favor of Memphis.
The second quarter was about as opposite a quarter as one could see in a basketball game. Points were not at a premium in the second quarter. The first four minutes of the quarter were almost all Memphis, as they extended their lead to seven at the 8:40 mark. JayMychal Green hit a three to give them that seven-point lead, and the Bulls took timeout. This timeout proved to be of large significance for the Bulls. After the timeout, the Bulls offense woke up. Keeping on the theme of extended playing time, Doug McDermott took charge of the Chicago offense. He scored ten consecutive points for Chicago, which allowed the Bulls to tie the game at thirty-three, and eventually gain the lead. Of course, Memphis started to see their shots fall, and countered the Bulls’ hot offense. Chicago did jump out to an eight-point lead at the 3:33 mark, and could keep their offense hot until the clock hit triple zeros for the half. McDermott accounted for twenty-two of the Bulls fifty-two points, and Chicago led by six at the half.
The second half began with the Grizzlies cutting the Bulls lead to six off another JayMychal Green three. The Bulls offense looked like it was keeping its game within the first few minutes of the half. Taj Gibson was doing his best to keep the Bulls lead intact, as he had four points and two rebounds in the first five and a half minutes. After the Grizzlies took a timeout with just under six minutes to play in the quarter, Memphis was able to hit their stride. The Bulls led by seven when the timeout was taken, and after the ageless veteran Vince Carter drilled a three, the Grizzlies cut the Bulls lead to two points. “Vincesanity” kept his hot hand going, as he scored Memphis’ six straight points. But the Bulls were not letting VC give the Grizzlies a lead. Doug McDermott hit a massive turnaround jumper to keep the Bulls lead at three. The third quarter ended just how you would expect it, with Zach Randolph popping a three to give the Grizzlies a one point lead.
Unlike most games for the Bulls, they did not let the momentum for the Randolph three get to them. The second unit pushed the Bulls off to great start in the fourth quarter, as they opened the quarter on a 7-0 run. Rajon Rondo looked useful in the opening minutes of the quarter, as he had a steal off Tony Allen and an assist to Cristiano Felicio. However, continuing to play their style, Memphis would not let the Bulls close the door. Mike Conley hitting a running jumper with just over seven minutes to play to cut the Bulls lead to one. As the minutes dropped, the game got closer. The color analyst for the game, Doug Collins, thought this game would end in the eighties. However, both teams eclipsed the 5:40 mark. The amount of time continued to shrink, and the Bulls continued to cling on to a small lead. Taj Gibson missed the Bulls’ eleventh free throw of the night, and two possessions later Mike Conley tied the game after hitting a pair of free throws. Jimmy Butler hit a step back jumper with under twenty seconds to play that put the Bulls back up two, and on the other end forced Mike Conley to take a poor shot. The Bulls still led with under ten seconds to play as Doug McDermott got fouled. Dougie hit both free throws, and the Bulls picked up a strong win. The final score from Memphis, 108-104, in favor of the Bulls.
This game was exactly what you’d expect it to be. The Bulls started out slow after a late game last night, to a team you’d expect to start out slow. There wasn’t much that you could compliment or knock the Bulls on for this game. They had a good offensive outing, considering they played last night, but their defense wasn’t great either. It was nice to see the Bulls’ offense come alive without the likes of Dwyande Wade and Nikola Mirotic. That should instill some confidence for head coach Fred Hoiberg going forward. The biggest knock on the Bulls for the night was how poor they were at the free throw line. You are just asking your opponent to stay in the game if you miss more than ten free throws. This game could serve as a large gain of momentum for the Bulls, as it was a nice win. The Bulls are back to .500 and will travel back to the United Center to take on the struggling Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday.