Bulls hang on, edge Grizzlies

Don Wade, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- With less than six minutes to play Monday, the Memphis Grizzlies trailed by two points after cutting down an 18-point, second-half deficit.
Chicago Bulls reserve guard D.J. Augustin had the ball, and he also had Memphis Grizzlies guard Jerryd Bayless in his pocket with the shot clock nearing zero.
Augustin fired a desperation 3-pointer as Bayless contested the shot. The shot went in, the lead rose to five points, and the Bulls closed out a 95-91 victory at the FedExForum.
"Tough shot in a tough moment," said Augustin, who finished with 10 points, nine assists and a season-high four steals. "When somebody does that to a team, it takes away their momentum."
The Bulls (12-17) subsequently pushed the lead to as many as 10 points, and the Grizzlies (13-17) never got closer than four.
Chicago guard Jimmy Butler scored a season-high 26 points, going 6-for-10 from the floor (60 percent) and 12-for-14 from the foul line.
"More than anything, my teammates were putting me in position to score and get to the free-throw line," said Butler, who recently came back from an ankle injury. "I'm getting real comfortable."
Bulls power forward Carlos Boozer added 21 points and 10 rebounds.
Point guard Mike Conley led Memphis with 26 points, nine assists and a season-high six steals. Reserve forward James Johnson recorded his first double-double of the season, 13 points and 10 rebounds, but he fouled out with 4:10 to play.
Five Grizzlies scored in double figures, including power forward Zach Randolph, who had his 18th double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Randolph, however, suffered through a 4-for-15 shooting night and committed five of the Grizzlies' season-high 21 turnovers that led to 28 Chicago points.
"I couldn't make a shot, we turned the ball over ... I felt like we could have won the game," Randolph said.
"It was awful," Memphis coach Dave Joerger said. "We threw the ball all over the place. We lacked focus. We lacked cutting and screening."
The Bulls are now 2-8 against Western Conference teams, and they beat a team from the West on the road for the first time this season. They also overcame committing 21 turnovers. Chicago only shot 43.1 percent from the field (28 of 65) but did hit six of 15 3-point shots (40 percent). Memphis went 0-for-5 from behind the arc while hitting 35 of 78 shots from the floor (44.9 percent).
"We just have to keep grinding," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said.
Chicago guard Kirk Hinrich said, "We're happy with this win. It seems like every time we start to feel that way or start to feel good, we exhale and have a slip-up like Dallas (last Saturday). We just have to guard from doing that and realize they're all very important to us.
"Every night, we have to play with the highest intensity possible. Turnovers hurt us some tonight, but I think it was one of better efforts for 48 minutes."
The Bulls set a season high with 10 blocks, getting four each from center Joakim Noah (who also had eight points and 10 rebounds) and forward Taj Gibson (nine points).
"Joakim played terrific defense," Thibodeau said.
The Bulls led 46-44 at half and opened the third quarter with a 20-4 run to gain an 18-point lead. The Grizzlies fought back from there, with Conley scoring 19 of his 26 points in the second half.
"Heart of a champion," Joerger said. "I can't say enough good things about having Mike Conley on our team."
NOTES: Chicago G/F Luol Deng sat out his fifth consecutive game with a sore left Achilles. Deng is averaging a team-leading 19.6 points with 7.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said it was possible Deng could play Tuesday in Chicago against the Toronto Raptors. "He's real close," Thibodeau said. ... Thibodeau attended his father's funeral in Connecticut on Monday morning and said he consulted with family before deciding to coach Monday night. "It's something my father would have wanted," he said. ... In addition to scoring 14 points Saturday, Memphis reserve F James Johnson added seven rebounds and a team-high six assists in the Grizzlies' 120-99 victory over the Denver Nuggets. No Grizzlies reserve posted those numbers in points, rebounds and assists in the same game last season. "He's been a nice shot in the arm for us," Memphis coach Dave Joerger said of Johnson, who was called up from the NBA Development League on Dec. 16.

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