The Memphis Grizzlies’ longest winning streak in six weeks came to an end after their defense succumbed to one of the league’s highest-scoring teams.
That probably won’t happen again Tuesday night, when the Grizzlies host a slumping Chicago Bulls team that could be without its top four scorers.
Memphis (35-32) lost to Northwest Division-leading Denver 125-108 on Saturday, a game it led by 12 points in the first half. The score was tied at 85 after three quarters, but the Grizzlies were completely overwhelmed by the Nuggets in the final period, getting outscored 40-23 to lose for the second time in seven games.
The Grizzlies dropped 5 1/2 games back of eighth-place Portland in the Western Conference and the loss snapped a three-game winning streak, their longest since Jan. 22-27.
They appear to have a good chance of bouncing back with a home game against a Bulls team they beat 105-96 at the United Center on March 4.
Randolph led the way with 31 points on 12-of-18 shooting and 18 rebounds, as Memphis rallied from a 17-point second-quarter deficit.
Blowing that lead was just one of many embarrassing moments for the Bulls (31-34) over the past 2 1/2 weeks.
After owning the East’s sixth-best record Feb. 26, Chicago has dropped a season-worst seven straight to fall to ninth, one game back of eighth-place Toronto. This is the team’s longest skid since losing eight in a row from Dec. 20, 2005-Jan. 4, 2006.
Center Joakim Noah(notes) (plantar fasciitis), the team’s top post player, has been out each game of the skid and the defense has suffered, allowing at least 100 points in 10 straight games for the first time since the end of the 1988-89 season. Chicago’s last four opponents have averaged 118.3 points and shot 53.8 percent from the field.
Things aren’t going much better on offense for the Bulls, who are trying to avoid being swept in a season series with Memphis for the first time 2003-04.
Derrick Rose(notes) (sprained wrist) and Luol Deng(notes) (strained calf) each sat out Friday’s 108-95 loss to Miami, and Kirk Hinrich(notes) was ejected for drawing two technicals. Hinrich made contact with a referee during an argument after his second technical and was given a one-game suspension by the league Saturday.
With the status of Rose and Deng uncertain and Noah and Hinrich definitely out, the Bulls could be without four players who combine to average 59.6 points. Against the Grizzlies two weeks ago, Deng led the Bulls with 23 while Rose had 20 and Hinrich added 13.
“Bottom line is you have to do it on the court,” coach Vinny Del Negro said. “You have to play and keep battling.”
Without Rose and Deng against the Heat, replacement starters James Johnson(notes) and Jannero Pargo(notes) led the offense, each recording season highs with 20 points. Flip Murray(notes), acquired from Charlotte on Feb. 18, is expected to make his first start for the Bulls in place of Hinrich.