Bulls drop fourth consecutive game, fall to Grizzlies in Memphis
Besides a dust-up involving Grizzlies star Ja Morant and Bulls big man Tony Bradley, the visiting team didn’t offer up much resistance after the first quarter.
With 5:32 left in the game Monday against the Grizzlies in Memphis, the Bulls finally showed some aggressiveness.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the type of fight that is going to win them many games or popularity contests around the league.
After the Grizzlies had taken advantage of the Bulls’ lackluster effort for most of the afternoon, guard Ja Morant was trying to split defenders and get to the rim. Bulls reserve big man Tony Bradley stuck his leg out, appearing to put a roadblock up around Morant’s knees, leading to the two players locking up.
After some jersey-tugging and a basketball shoved into the chest, Grizzlies big man Steven Adams eventually played bouncer and moved Bradley away from Morant. The incident resulted in Morant and Bradley getting technical fouls, as well as Bradley getting a flagrant foul for his leg sweep.
When that’s a team’s most memorable moment, it means it was a bad day at the office. The Bulls lost to the Grizzlies 119-106, dropping their season-high fourth consecutive game — three of them embarrassing.
The culprits Monday were shaky offensive possessions in the second quarter and trouble taking care of the ball.
‘‘I thought it was our offense,’’ coach Billy Donovan said. ‘‘I thought we kind of got bogged down with some possessions there that weren’t great. Then the other thing, too, is the turnovers really hurt us. When you look at their team, there’s three things that significantly stand out. The first is the offensive rebounds. They get out in transition; they run really well. And when you turn the ball over and you miss shots, it allows them to get out.’’
That’s how a 20-20 game after the first quarter turned into a big Grizzlies lead at the half.
Not only did the Grizzlies outscore the Bulls 38-25 in the second quarter, but they did it exactly the way Donovan warned his team they would: They turned Bulls misses into quick outlet passes and easy baskets.
Then add the fact that the Bulls had 12 turnovers that led to 13 points in the first half, and it was a recipe for disaster.
‘‘I think just paying attention to detail,’’ guard Coby White said of how to avoid the issues. ‘‘During that time we had a couple of bad turnovers but also a couple of makes, and we just didn’t get back [on defense]. We just fell apart in transition. We didn’t get matched up.’’
There’s no question the Bulls were up against it, having only 10 players available and still missing guards Zach LaVine, Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso and forward Javonte Green.
It wouldn’t have been easy for them against most teams, let alone the Grizzlies, who have been one of the best in the league since Thanksgiving, especially defensively.
Still, it was essentially the same team that took the Celtics to the brink Saturday in Boston and had a chance to win that game at the buzzer.
On Monday, however, the Bulls looked beaten getting off the bus.
‘‘We never lost hope,’’ White said. ‘‘We thought we could fight our way back, like we did in Boston, but we just can’t have those lapses. We’re going to make mistakes. Things are going to happen. But just not as many mistakes as we made.’’
DeMar DeRozan led the Bulls with 24 points, but center Nikola Vucevic had a day to forget, shooting 2-for-13 and finishing with seven points.
‘‘No matter who is out on the court, whatever we’ve got, as long as we have five guys who play hard, then we’ve got a chance to win any game,’’ White said. ‘‘We’ve got a lot of people out, but other teams had a lot of people out earlier this year. We’re not using that as an excuse.’’