Two hard-nosed teams with tough defensive outlooks met at FedExForum for a pre-New Year's Eve game. For the Chicago Bulls and the Memphis Grizzlies, winning is built on a hone-in-on defense foundation.
Similar stats aside, it was the Bulls' defense that prevailed and their offense that propelled Chicago past Memphis (91-95) on Monday night (Dec. 30).
The Grizzlies (13-17) wanted a year-end win going into 2014. Chicago (12-17) was trying to bounce back after suffering a home loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday.
Both teams finished with 37 rebounds, 21 turnovers (Memphis' season high) and 13 steals. The Bulls set a season-high with 10 blocks. The Grizzlies' bench only scored 27 points. Memphis was 0-of-5 from the three-point line for the first time this season.
"We played poorly," said Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger. "We played poor in the first half and worse in the third quarter. We battled back and made a good run. We just had to get some energy in the game."
Mike Conley led the Grizzlies with 26-points, nine assists, six rebounds and a season-high six steals.
"It's very tough to play against them," Conley said. "You can't give them a 15-point lead and expect to not be worn out by the time you get the ball back and you're down two points. They work hard. They have a bunch of guys that love to play 'D' and it was tough."
James Johnson came off the bench with 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Grizzlies. Tony Allen also pitched in 13 points.
Memphis went into the third quarter with a two-point lead (46-44). The Bulls used a 20-4 run to take an 18-point lead (66-48) with 3:19 left in the quarter. Memphis gained some momentum at the end of the third quarter with an Allen dunk and then a big block by Kosta Koufos at the buzzer.
The Grizzlies began to chip away at the deficit, closing the gap to one point (72-72) with 9:01 left to pay. Chicago held firm and maintained the lead until the final second.
The loss snapped Memphis' three-game winning steak against the Bulls. It also marked Chicago's first road game win this season against a Western Conference team.
"It was awful," Joerger said of the turnovers. "We threw the ball all over the place. We lacked focus. We lacked screening and cutting. We were loose with the ball in the first half."
Jimmy Butler led the Bulls with 26 points followed by Carlos Boozer with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
NOTE: The Grizzlies will play their first game of 2014 on Jan. 2 on the road against the red-hot Phoenix Suns.