Bulls never trail in victory against Grizzlies for first winning streak of season

Zach LaVine scored a team-high 25 points, and Wendell Carter Jr. had his 12th double-double

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Zach LaVine

Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine (8) goes to the basket as Memphis Grizzlies forward Jae Crowder (99) and guard Grayson Allen (3) defend him during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019, in Chicago.

David Banks/AP

The Bulls spotted warning signs long before tipoff Wednesday.

It was their first game at home since their West Coast trip. And they were facing a struggling Grizzlies team that lacked its top scorer, rookie guard Ja Morant.

In other words, it was exactly the type of night in which the Bulls could have let their guard down.

“This is a game where, mentally, we have to come ready to compete,” coach Jim Boylen said.

This time, the players got the memo.

The Bulls raced out to a 22-point lead in the first half and never trailed in a 106-99 victory in front of a season-low crowd of 15,017. Memphis closed to one late in the fourth quarter, but the Bulls responded with an 8-0 run.

“Nobody panicked, nothing, just everybody stayed calm,” Bulls big man Lauri Markkanen said. “We talked about what we were going to do, and we executed the things we wanted to.”

Guard Zach LaVine scored a team-high 25 points, and center Wendell Carter had his 12th double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds.

For the first time all season, the Bulls have won consecutive games.

“We’re just trying to put a winning streak together,” Carter said.

LaVine continued his impressive play over the last couple of weeks. He took over after a fourth-quarter timeout with 4:27 left by hitting a three-pointer, making a long jumper and assisting on a three-pointer by guard Kris Dunn.

“Zach comes in and basically dominates the game,” Boylen said. “He scores or assists on the next 13 points. I thought he was just terrific out there [with] his poise. He stepped up and made big plays.”

But the back-to-back wins are not just thanks to LaVine, Boylen said. Collectively, the Bulls are starting to find their voice.

“At a timeout, I walk out and I meet with the coaches for a second, but from what I’ve heard and from what my other coaches have told me, these guys are talking and meeting in that huddle,” Boylen said. “They’re talking about the last play; they’re talking about what they can do better. I think they’re constructively criticizing each other in a positive teaching-type way: ‘Hey, we can’t make that mistake. Hey, we’ve got to do this better. Hey, we’ve got to talk on that back pick.’ That’s what we’re kind of building.

“I would like to have a player-coach team. When they take ownership of that, you have a better group. You have growth.”

Boylen said his players needed to hear guidance from someone other than him and his assistants.

“It’s almost like if your father says something to you, that’s great,” Boylen said. “But if your older brother grabs you and says something to you, it kind of hits you a little differently. That’s the way I look at it, and I think that’s important for our team, which is finding its voice, finding its way. We spend a lot of time on the road together, and I think some of that came from that trip.”

Carter echoed Boylen’s comments. He said it was necessary for players to provide honest feedback to one another.

“It’s important because we don’t all listen the same,” Carter said. “Some people might get feelings about something, but when you hear it from your teammate, it’s coming from a good spot in their heart. It’s almost ignorant not to listen to them.

“We’re all grown men. I feel like we’re all very competitive, so when someone says to someone else, ‘We need you to do this, this and this,’ they usually respond pretty well.”

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