Sorry for the post delay. I intended to finish this post from home last night only to find my internet down when I got back.
The Lead: This was somewhat similar to last week's home game against the Knicks, with the Grizzlies building a big lead in the middle of the game against a generally overmatched opponent only to get complacent — and then tight — as the lead evaporated in the fourth quarter. With the Bulls missing four key players — Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich, Joakim Noah, and Luol Deng — the Grizzlies led by as many as 25 and took an 18-point lead into the 4th quarter. But the team started that final quarter with an all-bench lineup of Marcus Williams, Ronnie Brewer, Sam Young, Darrell Arthur, and Hamed Haddadi, allowing the Bulls to slice into the lead and build momentum that continued for a while even after the Grizzlies began to get their starters back into the game, eventually holding on for the 104-97 win.
Beyond the outcome, the story of the night for the Grizzlies were a series of lineup and rotation changes: With Marc Gasol out with a strained neck (Gasol is listed as day-to-day), Hasheem Thabeet got his first NBA start and gave a decent performance. Thabeet played 28 minutes and matched career highs with 10 points (4-6 shooting) and 9 rebounds to go along with 2 blocks. He did a pretty good job contesting shots without getting into foul trouble and demonstrated that he can be a scoring threat even without a post game or a jumper provided he can — one, get better at catching the ball around the rim (he flubbed several passes, including a couple of alley-oops) and, two, become proficient at the line (2-5 last night).
The other change for the Grizzlies was the return of Ronnie Brewer, who had missed three weeks with a torn hamstring suffered in his Grizzlies debut. Brewer clearly didn't have his legs fully under him and had bad moments (including a badly missed jumper when the Bulls were making their fourth-quarter run), but generally demonstrated the kind of player he can be for the Grizzlies: Not much of a scorer, but a nice all-around player. He defended and passed the ball well. He broke up a 2-on-1 Bulls break. He had a steal. Only 15 minutes, but a decent start on the road back.
Game Ball: Mike Conley had one of his best games of the season with 19 points (6-9 shooting), 10 assists, and 5 steals. But O.J. Mayo and Zach Randolph will have to share this one. When the Grizzlies built their big lead in the second and third quarters it was largely because Mayo got into the kind of zone we haven't seen enough this season, scoring 20 points across the two quarters on 6-7 shooting, including 4-4 from long-range. He finished with a team-high 24. As for Randolph, when the Bulls get the Grizzlies lead to only 4 with two and a half minutes to go, Randolph responded with consecutive baskets — a short hook off deep post position and a rare contested fastbreak lay-up off a Rudy Gay feed — to push the lead back to 8. Randolph finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds.
Nightly Number: 8-15. That was the Grizzlies' unusually strong three-point shooting. With Marc Gasol out, the team wasn't quite as polished in the halfcourt, but better-than-usual outside shooting made up for it. O.J. Mayo deserves the primary credit with 4-5 marksmanship, but Mike Conley, Rudy Gay, and Marcus Williams combined to shoot 4-9 from downtown.
The Match-Up: With so many players out, the Bulls started three small guards in Jannero Pargo, Acie Law, and Flip Murray and the Grizzlies struggled early to match-up. The match-up dictated that the Grizzlies play more in the halfcourt to take advantage of their size, but without Marc Gasol the team was essentially playing 4-on-5 in the halfcourt with Hasheem Thabeet and Hamed Haddadi on the court. And the Grizzlies didn't put much effort into posting Rudy Gay against the much smaller Murray. The Grizzlies did better when they went smaller, playing more the style the Bulls wanted, but with superior talent.
The Jacob Riis Report: Hakim Warrick scored 22 points off the bench for the Bulls on 7-12 shooting. The Grizzlies had every intention of retaining Warrick this season on a one-year, $3 million qualifying offer, until majority owner Michael Heisley overruled his basketball staff in letting Warrick walk. The team used Warrick's salary slot to acquire Steven Hunter's Expiring Contract from the Denver Nuggets in exchange for cash considerations and a later first-round pick this coming summer. A few months later, with a gruesome bench all-but-torpedoing the team's unexpected playoff hopes, the Grizzlies found themselves — wait for it! — shopping a late first-round pick next summer for a veteran bench scorer on an expiring contract. It was poetic justice that Heisley had a courtside seat last night to watch Warrick provide the kind of bench production that would have been a big help to the Grizzlies this season.
Tweet O’ the Game: @FantasyLionel Yall think D Rose is out with a sprained wrist?? Nope. #SATthundastick to his dumb ass dome.
Arena Action: LeAnne Tuohy, wife of Grizzlies TV commentator Sean Tuohy and subject of Sandra Bullock's Oscar-winning performance in The Blind Side, was the celebrity trigger-person for the team's "prize cannon."
Announced Attendance: 15,413