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.
Despite another disappointing season with a losing record and not making the playoffs in the Mike Munchak-era, the Tennessee Titans (7-9) still played with a purpose during its last game of year.
"Yeah, I think today was a good day for us just to go out there and enjoy playing the game of football," said Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Tennessee, which finished two games out of the final spot in the AFC playoffs, made it a point to finish strong, playing hard for the fans and displaying home-field pride in a 16-10 win over the Houston Texans.
Grizz fans have started to see a positive change in a team that has been struggling to restore its defensive identity while battling injuries.
Points in the paint, out-rebounding opposing teams and playing defense down the stretch.
Well, it certainly looks familiar. Especially to those who attended or tuned into Saturday's game (Dec. 28) as the Grizzlies rallied after halftime to hand the Denver Nuggets their sixth straight loss (120-99) in FedExForum. Memphis reached the 120-point mark for the first time this season.
Kicking someone when they are down isn't exactly a valiant character trait.
Yet, competitive sports sometimes require that killer instinct. Putting your foot on your opponent's figurative throat and putting them out of misery is a necessary quality for all good teams.
Now, this scenario doesn't play out in every game, but when top teams play teams from the minor conferences and divisions it often does. So when Memphis took on the Jackson State Tigers last Saturday (Dec. 28), it appeared that a blowout was on the horizon. Memphis is ranked #15 in the country and JSU is a 4-7 team from the SWAC.
On and off the court in Memphis, many see Grizz big man Zach Randolph as having become the man and that was before there was an official proclamation to help make the case.
On Friday, Mayor A C Wharton Jr. made it official, issuing a proclamation declaring Zach Randolph Day. It was in recognition of Z-bo's "achievements and charitable events in the Memphis Community."
Zach racked another double-double – flashing his trademark smile and signing autographs rather than scoring in the paint and hauling down rebounds. All the while, there were various fundraising activities benefiting Le Bonheur Children's Hospital.
The Memphis Grizzlies appear to be finding their way back to doing what they do best – beating odds and winning games.
The Grizzlies racked back-to-back wins for the second time this season by topping the Utah Jazz 104-94 on Monday night (Dec. 24) at FedExForum.
After enduring five straight losses, the Grizzlies had just defeated the New York Knicks 95-87 on Saturday (Dec. 21) with power forward Zach Randolph leading the way. He finished the contest with 25 points and 15 rebounds. Tony Allen followed with 19 points. The Grizz outrebounded the Knicks 56-29 and improved to 11-15 on the season and 6-5 on the road.
The city of Memphis has proved to be fertile recruiting ground throughout the years and the University of Memphis usually has its basketball star of choice. But, there are only 12 roster spots.
And it seems Southeast Missouri State University and coach Dicky Nutt have established a pipeline to pull some of the excess talent out of the city. Case in point: five of the 12 players on Southeast Missouri are from the Memphis area and four of those are in the starting lineup for the Redhawks.
Now, it has already been established that it would be impossible for the Tigers to sign every recruit that comes out of the city, but that doesn't stop those players from feeling a little slighted. And when those that got overlooked return home to the Bluff City, they often use that added motivation to produce some stellar games.