Grizzlies extend undermanned Bulls’ skid to 8

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—The Chicago Bulls—what’s left of them—are slipping further away from the last Eastern Conference playoff spot.

Undermanned because of injuries and a suspension, the Bulls dropped their eighth straight Tuesday night, as O.J. Mayo(notes) scored 24 points in the Memphis Grizzlies’ 104-97 victory.

Mayo connected on 8-of-12 shots from the field, including going 4 of 5 from 3-point range, as six Grizzlies finished in double figures.

Mike Conley(notes) had 19 points and 10 assists, while Zach Randolph(notes) added 18 points and 12 rebounds. Rudy Gay(notes) had 12 points, and Marcus Williams and Hasheem Thabeet(notes) finished with 10 apiece. Thabeet grabbed nine rebounds.

The loss dropped the Bulls 1 1/2 games behind the idle Toronto Raptors for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. Chicago committed 19 turnovers, some down the stretch as the Bulls tried to overcome Memphis with a fourth-quarter rally.

“We just turned it over too much,” Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said. “It’s frustrating because you don’t even get a shot at the basket.

“A lot of guys haven’t played together for a while. I was pleased with the effort, but I was disappointed with the outcome.”

Flip Murray(notes) scored 25 points for the Bulls, while Hakim Warrick(notes) came off the bench for 22, including 10 in the fourth as the Bulls made a run. Acie Law(notes) finished with a season-high 18 points, while Jannero Pargo(notes) had 12. Brad Miller(notes) had 10 points and 11 rebounds.

The Bulls used some unusual lineups because their top four scorers did not play. Derrick Rose(notes), Luol Deng(notes) and Joakim Noah(notes) were out with injuries, while guard Kirk Hinrich(notes) was serving a one-game suspension for bumping a ref in last Friday’s loss to Miami.

Memphis led by as many as 25 in the third, but had to hold on after missing 10 of its first 12 shots in the fourth quarter.

“The comeback (was) when they started attacking the basket,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. “They just went totally small, and we withstood that as well and got the win.”

Despite the injuries, the Bulls came out with a burst. Memphis appeared complacent as if it didn’t think it would have trouble with a bunch of Chicago reserves. Law made four of his first five shots, and that, coupled with seven early Memphis turnovers, helped the Bulls grab an early double-digit lead.

The lead held until the midway point of the second quarter, when 17 unanswered points by Memphis erased the Bulls’ advantage and helped the Grizzlies carry a 55-44 lead into halftime. Mayo had 17 for Memphis, while Conley scored 12.

“We were discombobulated early offensively because of mismatches,” Hollins said. “(We) were standing around trying to take advantage of mismatches instead of just playing. Once we got control of that, we took control of the game.”

The Bulls, who shot 55 percent in the first quarter, managed only 5 of 18 in the second period as Memphis outscored Chicago 30-18.

The Grizzlies continued to stretch the advantage at the opening of the second half, eventually reaching 20 before Del Negro called timeout. It didn’t help much, as Memphis would lead by as many as 25 before holding an 85-67 lead after the third period.

Chicago cut it to 94-90 on Pargo’s three-point play with 3:39 remaining. Consecutive baskets by Randolph gave Memphis a 98-90 lead and the Grizzlies held on.

“If we played the way we played in the second half for 48 minutes, I think we would have a really good shot,” Warrick said. “I think we did a good job of getting up and down and sharing the ball. We just had some little mistakes that we couldn’t overcome.”

The ending continued a recent trend for Memphis. For the third time in the last four home games, the Grizzlies built a lead of at least 20 points, but had to hang on at the end.

“We play hard and build good leads, and then we seem to get lackadaisical in the fourth,” Conley said. “Teams get momentum going, and it’s tough to stop that.”

NOTES: The Bulls have lost five straight in Memphis. The last time Chicago won a road game in the series was 96-88 on Dec. 15, 2004, about a month after President Barack Obama was elected—as the new U.S. senator from Illinois. Chicago hasn’t won since beat Portland 115-111 in overtime on Feb. 26. Two losses during the skid were to Memphis. Memphis C Marc Gasol(notes) sat out with a strained neck muscle, the first game he’s missed in his career. He played in the first 149. The Bulls have allowed at least 100 points in 11 straight games. The last time Chicago allowed 100-plus points in that long a string was 1986— Michael Jordan’s second year in the league, and two years before Rose was even born. Chicago’s only regular starter was rookie guard Taj Gibson(notes) (2 points). The Bulls were missing 59.6 points. Grizzlies G/F Ronnie Brewer(notes) returned to action after missing 13 games with a partially torn right hamstring.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Chicago
F. Murray Flip Murray
9-19,  25 Pts
3 Rebs, 2 Assists
 Memphis
M. Conley Mike Conley
6-9,  19 Pts
3 Rebs, 10 Assists

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Tuesday, Mar 16