The Bulls will now look to snap the Grizzlies’ three-game winning streak by recording their 14th consecutive home victory Friday night.
Memphis’ 90-87 win at Boston on Wednesday not only helped the Grizzlies maintain their two-game lead for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, it also increased Chicago’s advantage over the Celtics for first place in the East to one game.
“Playing for that one seed every game means so much,” swingman Kyle Korver(notes) told the Bulls’ official website. “We’re going to be right there with Boston. One bad loss or a couple of wins means everything.”
Chicago (51-19) has done plenty of winning of late, taking 10 of 11 and its last two by a combined 73 points.
A night after shooting 61.3 percent in a 132-92 home rout of Sacramento, the Bulls made 54.4 percent of their shots to win 114-81 at Atlanta on Tuesday.
“We have a lot of confidence,” said Deng, averaging 21.7 points on 49.5 percent shooting over the last six games. “When our mindset is right on defense, we seem to work harder on offense. When we’re not as focused on defense, it kind of leads to our offense. We just go through the motions. So it always starts with defense.”
Chicago, which ranks second in the NBA while giving up 91.1 points per game, has allowed an average of 86.5 during its longest home winning streak since a 17-game run Nov. 14, 1997-Jan. 21, 1998 - the club’s last NBA championship season.
Deng had 28 points and Rose posted his first career triple-double with 22, 12 assists and 10 rebounds when the Bulls snapped a three-game skid against the Grizzlies with a 96-84 win at Memphis on Jan. 17.
Though the Grizzlies (40-32) barely looked competitive while shooting 37.7 percent en route to recording their fewest points at home this season, they appear to be a more spirited club while trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2005-06.
Memphis has done it on the defensive end of late by allowing an average of 83.3 points on 41.8 shooting during consecutive victories over Indiana, Utah and Boston. The Grizzlies outscored the Celtics 23-17 in the fourth quarter to avoid a third straight road defeat.
“When you can come on the road and beat a great team like that, and do it on the defensive end, it’s huge for a young, up-and-coming team,” said former Celtic Leon Powe(notes), who scored 13 points off the bench. “That just adds to our confidence.”
Though the Bulls are 31-4 at home, Memphis should have even more confidence after snapping a five-game skid at the United Center with a 105-96 win March 4, 2010.