Tue, 30 May 2023

Bulls brace for Grizzlies' smothering defense

Field Level Media
02 Apr 2023, 04:40 GMT+10

The Memphis Grizzlies will look to extend their recent hot stretch when they visit Chicago on Sunday for a matchup with the play-in hopeful Bulls.

Memphis (49-28) saw its seven-game winning streak snapped Wednesday against the Los Angeles Clippers, but the Grizzlies turned around and beat the Clippers the very next game, 108-94.

Memphis comes into Chicago having won eight of its last nine and 11 of 13 following Friday's victory. The Grizzlies sit two games ahead of Sacramento for second place in the Western Conference, and two games behind Denver for the top spot.

In addition to the push for playoff positioning, Memphis has contenders for individual honors making their cases in the final five games of the regular season.

Coach Taylor Jenkins made the argument for Jaren Jackson Jr. as a Defensive Player of the Year contender following Jackson's three-block performance on Friday.

"I absolutely think we've got a number of guys (who) should be getting season awards, All-NBAs, (Jackson) at the top of that list for Defensive Player of the Year," Jenkins said. "It's a steady progress of him year-to-year watching film, identifying tendencies. Timing is probably one of the biggest things we've talked to him about in the last two years."

Jackson is averaging 3.1 blocked shots per game, tops in the NBA and 0.6 more than his nearest competitor. His rim-protecting presence has helped Memphis rank third in the NBA through games played Friday in both opponent 2-point field goals per game (27.6 percent), and opponent 2-point field-goal shooting percentage (51.9).

The Bulls (37-40) will look to solve the Grizzlies defense in the first of five games to close out their regular season.

A 121-91 blowout of Charlotte on Friday marked a rebound for the Bulls after consecutive losses to the Clippers and Lakers, and kept Chicago within a game of Atlanta and Toronto for eighth and ninth place in the East.

The Bulls hold a three-game advantage over Washington for 10th place and the final play-in spot.

DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine each scored 23 points in Friday's win, while Nikola Vucevic added 21 points. It marked the second time in Chicago's last five outings in which each of the three scored at least 20.

But as the Bulls aim to solidify their postseason position, they will need contributions from the rest of the roster.

Coach Billy Donovan touted the rotational unit of Ayo Dosunmu, Coby White, Andre Drummond and Patrick Williams following Friday's win.

"I give that group a lot of credit coming back in the third, and the way they played in the fourth they did a really good job opening up the lead," Donovan said. "A lot of times with younger players, it's going to be ups and downs. There's going to be ebbs and flows. They're gaining more and more experience."

Williams is one of four Bulls averaging in double figures at 10.1 points per game. White adds 9.4 points per game off the bench, and Dosunmu is averaging 8.7 points a contest.

The veteran Drummond is adding 6.7 rebounds per game, second on the team.

--Field Level Media

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