MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—In a game featuring the NBA’s top scoring rookies, it was a couple of Memphis veterans who carried the offensive load.
Warrick’s 12 points in the fourth quarter kept the Bulls at bay, snapping Chicago’s two-game winning streak. The win marked the first time the Grizzlies won three straight under Marc Iavaroni, in his second season as their coach.
“I think this whole run has been a total team effort,” Warrick said. “It’s been a different guy stepping up at different key points of the game and making big plays.”
Memphis’ O.J. Mayo came in averaging 20.8 points, while Chicago’s Derrick Rose, the No. 1 pick, was scoring 18.3 per game. Both rookies were kept under those numbers, as Mayo scored 14 points and Rose finished with 12 points and a season-high 11 assists in his return to Memphis, where he led the Tigers to last season’s NCAA championship game.
Rose got a nice ovation when he was introduced, and there were a number of his old University of Memphis jerseys in the crowd.
“They came out and supported me, and I love them for that,” Rose said of the fans. “That is one of the reasons I came here, because I saw the support the fans had. It shows they still remember me.”
Memphis players were aware that part of the 17,132 in attendance, the largest home crowd of the season, were there for Rose. But they tried not to let that distract them.
“We knew what the people were coming for, but we wanted to put on a show for the fans even though it was Derrick’s homecoming,” Grizzlies guard Mike Conley said. “I thought we did a great job of not letting that get to us. We just played basketball.”
The Bulls held an early 14-point lead, but a Memphis rally in the third erased the advantage. Memphis weathered a sloppy first part of the fourth, never relinquishing the lead despite blowing several layups. Warrick had six straight points working the inside midway through the final period, allowing Memphis to build a 95-85 lead with 4 minutes left.
“Warrick hurt us at the end, especially in the fourth quarter,” Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said. “We really couldn’t get a good match-up against their lineup.”
The Grizzlies went with Milicic and Gasol, both 7-footers, up front to try and match the physical presence of Aaron Gray and Gooden.
The Bulls hit all but one of their seven 3-pointers in the first quarter and held a 14-point lead. Gordon had 18 points in the stanza, but also picked up his third foul early in the second to send him to the bench for the rest of the half.
“I just locked in and focused,” Gordon said of his first quarter. “After the first few, I felt like I was in a good rhythm. Unfortunately, I got into a little bit of foul trouble.”
That helped Memphis erase the Bulls’ advantage by scoring the first eight points of the period, hitting its first three shots. Conley keyed the rally with eight of his nine points.
Chicago dealt with foul problems besides Gordon, as both Gooden and his replacement, Joakim Noah, drew a couple of early ones.
But after Memphis erased the early Chicago advantage, the Bulls started scoring again, hitting six of their next seven shots. That helped Chicago carry a 54-52 lead into the dressing room at the half, the Bulls connecting on 54 percent from the field, including 7-of-11 from outside the arc.
Mayo made consecutive baskets to build the lead to 73-68. That was part of a 15-4 run that increased the Memphis margin to 81-70, its biggest lead of the game, and the Grizzlies carried an 83-74 lead into the final period.
“It’s starting to come into place,” Gay said of the Grizzlies recent performance. “Got a couple under our belt, got some confidence. Hopefully, it’ll boil over.”
Rose has been announced in pregame introductions as being from Chicago. However, Friday night, he was introduced as being out of the “University of Memphis; former Tiger.” None of Rose’s former teammates or Tigers coach John Calipari was able to attend the game. They are in Washington, where they play Georgetown on Saturday. Before the game, Mayo was given the award for Western Conference rookie of the month for November. Rose won the award for the Eastern Conference. … The last time Memphis won three straight was at the end of the 2006-07 season. The Bulls and Grizzlies split the season series, the fourth straight season that has happened. Gordon’s 18 points in the first quarter were the most points by a Memphis opponent in a period this season. Rose’s double-double was his third of the season, while Gooden had his sixth, including the last three games. Mayo continued his streak of double-figure games, having reached the plateau in all 23 games this season.