With their first playoff berth in seven years getting closer to a reality, the surging Chicago Bulls continue their fight for home-court advantage in the opening round when they face the Memphis Grizzlies.
Five straight wins have lifted the Bulls into sole possession of fifth place in the Eastern Conference and moved them closer to their first playoff appearance since winning the NBA title in 1997-98. Chicago is battling Washington for the coveted fourth spot in the East and home court in the opening round.
Behind a season-high 27 points from Eddy Curry, the Bulls beat visiting Indiana 100-96 on Saturday.
Curry scored 22 points and shot 7-of-7 from the field and 8-of-10 from the free-throw line in the first half, accounting for 14 of Chicago’s first 19 points. He sat for the entire fourth quarter after getting hit on the side of his right knee at the end of the third.
“I think I took a knee from (Jeff) Foster (or Austin Croshere),” Curry said. “It’s kind of swollen right now but we don’t think there’s any major damage there.”
Curry’s career high is 31 points, which looked easily reachable.
“I wasn’t even thinking about it,” he said of his point total. “Honestly, I was just trying to get a win and provide some post presence down there and my teammates did a great job of looking for me.”
Curry’s performance helped move the Bulls a season-high six games over .500 and improved their record to 3-0 without starting point guard Kirk Hinrich. Sidelined the last three games with a left hamstring strain, Hinrich could return Monday.
Sitting in seventh in the Western Conference, Memphis is one game ahead of red-hot Denver, with ninth-place Minnesota also a threat to capture one of the remaining playoff spots.
The Grizzlies will be trying to rebound from one of their worst games of the season, a 96-85 home loss to last-place New Orleans on Saturday.
Brian Cardinal scored 17 points for Memphis, which shot 32 percent in the first half and missed all six 3-point attempts. For the game, the Grizzlies shot a season-low 11.8 percent (2-of-17) from beyond the arc, and had only nine assists—a season low and one more than the franchise-record low.
“That’s as telling as any other stat in this game,” Memphis forward Shane Battier said. “We didn’t shoot a very good percentage, but part of that was because we didn’t have a lot of assists. It was one of those bad nights for us.”
Forward Pau Gasol, the Grizzlies’ leading scorer, is being brought along slowly after missing two months with a left foot injury. In three games, all as a reserve, he has averaged 7.6 points on 6-of-13 shooting.
Chicago ended a four-game losing streak to Memphis with a 96-88 victory in the first meeting this season.