The Chicago Bulls will return home for the first time in nine days when they host the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night.
Chicago is coming off a 1-2 road trip that included losses to the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers, followed by a win over the Sacramento Kings on Monday night. The victory was much needed for Chicago, which had lost seven of its previous nine games.
“I’m just glad to get back on that winning (track),” Bulls guard Zach LaVine said to reporters. “We need to get it going before it’s too late.”
Now, the Bulls will go for back-to-back wins for the first time this season.
Memphis is one of several teams with a worse record than Chicago. The Grizzlies have lost seven of their past eight games, including a 117-104 setback in their most recent outing against the Indiana Pacers.
Not helping matters is a recent injury to rookie guard Ja Morant, who is dealing with back spasms. He has missed each of the past two games, forcing the Grizzlies to make do without one of their most electric playmakers.
In 17 starts, Morant is averaging 18.6 points and 6.4 assists per game. The 20-year-old was the No. 2 overall pick in this spring’s NBA draft out of Murray State.
“God’s timing is always perfect,” Morant posted on his Twitter account after the injury. “Trust his delays. He got you.”
After Morant, the Grizzlies’ second-leading scorer is Jaren Jackson Jr., who is averaging 15.7 points to go along with 4.8 rebounds per game. Dillon Brooks is third on the team with 13.7 points per game, and Jonas Valanciunas is right behind at 13.6.
The Bulls have been without veteran forward Otto Porter Jr. for an extended period, but LaVine and Lauri Markkanen have tried to fill the void as the team’s one-two scoring punch. Both players have been plagued by inconsistency this season and hope that their last game can mark the beginning of a turnaround.
LaVine scored 28 points in the win over the Kings, and Markkanen added 20. The duo combined to shoot 13 of 25 from the field and an exceptional 9 of 15 from beyond the 3-point line.
Bulls coach Jim Boylen will return to his home court for the first time since marking his one-year anniversary as head coach.
“(This season) feels different for a lot of reasons,” Boylen told reporters. “I have a relationship now as a head coach with the group, through a training camp and the first 20 games. Last year, I went from an assistant coach to a head coach. It’s a different vibe, a different feel. …
“Are we frustrated that our record’s not better? Of course we are. But I gauge it on these guys working and caring. That’s what we have to do to break out.”
This is the second and final meeting of the regular season between the teams. Chicago won the first game 110-102 on Oct. 25, thanks in part to a team-high 37 points from LaVine and 25 points from rookie guard Coby White.
–Field Level Media