Bulls beaten at their own game by similarly-styled Grizzlies
December 17, 2012, 10:56 pm
MEMPHIS—Beaten at their own game. Monday night’s 80-71 loss to the Grizzlies at the FedEx Forum was the type of rugged, low-scoring, defensive-minded affair that the Bulls usually thrive in.
But against a team that’s just as physical, feels like they should own the glass and has the depth to send waves of bodies against their opponents, as well as weather the storm through a rough start, the Bulls didn’t have enough in the tank against Memphis.
The Bulls lost the battle of the boards for the third straight game and notched their lowest point total since scoring 67 points against Minnesota on Jan. 30, 2008.
But beyond that, the frustration and feeling of helplessness in the visitors’ locker room was palpable late Monday evening off of the famed Beale Street strip in the downtown section of the “Bluff City.”
The combination of frontcourt stars Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol—despite not having great offensive nights—wearing the Bulls down inside as a major part of the Grizzlies’ 51-39 rebounding edge, underrated point guard Mike Conley Jr. and a bench featuring unlikely contributors like backup shooting guard Wayne Ellington and his trio of long bombs in the second quarter were key elements to the final result.
“I think it’s always what we failed to do. That’s what you can control. I think our defense was pretty good. We just got out-rebounded. We’ve got to do a better job of rebounding the ball as a team. We got a lot of good stops and then we ran in transition,” Joakim Noah said afterwards.
“We’ve got to get better at scoring in transition. We’re getting good stops and we’re getting out on the break, and we’re just not getting those easy points. We’re turning the ball over a little bit too much on the break. If we can score on those, we’ll be better.
“We’ve just got to get in the battle a little bit more. They’re a great rebounding team. I think that the last game was a little bit different,” he continued. “Their physicality hurt us a little bit. We’ve definitely got to a better job.
“It’s a step back because we lost. That’s the only reason why it’s a step back.”
Kirk Hinrich added: “They did a good job. We got off to a pretty decent start and we had some opportunities on the break we couldn’t finish on. We struggled to get rebounds and struggled to score. We just didn’t make shots tonight. You’ve got to give them credit.”
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, never pleased after any defeat, seemed especially displeased with the aforementioned second stanza of the game.
“I saw the second quarter was the problem. Outscored 28-14. Great first quarter, terrible second quarter. You don’t rebound on the road, you don’t take care of the ball, you’re not going to win,” he said. “They play hard. That’s how they play. You’ve got to take care of the ball and we didn’t do that. Then, we didn’t get back and got in a hole, big hole. The whole game changed in the second quarter.
“We didn’t cover the line, let guys get loose, not reading penetrating drives and flat drives, over-helping, not recognizing what’s going on in the game, throwing possessions away. Can’t do that, not against a quality team. Not against any team,” Thibodeau continued, listing a litany of his team’s failures and necessary adjustments.
“When you’re coming in, it’s going to be hard fought. They’re a tough team, so you’ve got to fight, you’ve got to know what you’re doing, you’ve got to make the right reads, you’ve got to sometimes give yourself up, you’ve got to cut with force, you’ve got to replace with force, you’ve got to make the right play, you’ve got to be willing to move the ball. When you do that, you’re going to get good shots. When you don’t do that, you’re going to take tough shots.”
However, as disappointed as the Bulls were with the loss, their opponents came away impressed. Randolph and Conley both shared their thoughts on the retooled Bulls, without superstar Derrick Rose, who played his lone season of college basketball in Memphis, with CSNChicago.com.
“Obviously when you’re missing an All-Star like Derrick, you can’t really replace that with much in this league, but with Kirk and Nate, you know they’re going to try to run the offense and try to get other guys involved more. They’re [the Bulls] not as point guard-oriented as they are with Derrick, so you just expect to not hit as many screens and not have to guard as much,” Conley explained.
“I think they’re one of the best defensive teams in the league. As long as you play D, you can beat anybody and regardless of who your personnel is, so with Derrick back, they’re one of the top teams in the East.
Randolph chimed in: “They’ve got a good team. They’ve got Kirk running point. Kirk is solid. They’re a good team and they can play. They play smart and they’ve got a great coach.”
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and for a perfectionist like Thibodeau, things look grim right now. But when have things ever been pretty for these Bulls, still a respected team in the NBA, a team that requires opponents to take their best shot and perhaps most importantly, a team that, for the most part, is in every game, every night, regardless of the caliber of the competition.
, Tom Thibodeau
, Memphis Grizzlies
, Derrick Rose
, Chicago Bulls
, Aggrey Sam