Bulls vs. Grizzlies: Can the Memphis Grizzlies Avenge Last Month's Debacle?

Tom Firme@TFirmeAnalyst IIJanuary 16, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 25: Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls drives against Mike Conley #11 of the Memphis Grizzlies at the United Center on March 25, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Grizzlies 99-96. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Three weeks ago, the Memphis Grizzlies couldn't get anything right in their 104-64 loss to the Chicago Bulls.

Grizzlies players couldn't hit shots early. They struggled to hit shots all night at that.

The Grizzlies had no answer for Derrick Rose as he went off for a triple-double.

The Grizzlies couldn't get out of the first quarter before Zach Randolph suffered his partial MCL tear.

Rudy Gay surely doesn't want to think about his 2-of-12 shooting performance.

The Grizzlies have surely put the game in the rear view mirror. They won back-to-back to follow it up, and are 4-3 since then. To think that they've done it without Randolph is remarkable (although the wins have come against light competition).

Whether the Grizzlies will be able to be competitive against the Bulls on Monday will be interesting to see.

At 12-2, the Bulls are on top of the Eastern Conference. The Grizzlies will need a contribution from the power forward position, a solid game from Rudy Gay and containment of Derrick Rose if they want a victory.

Tracking the Memphis Grizzlies Power Forward Tag Team

Speaking of Randolph, the Grizzlies are struggling to get a good fix in his place.

Dante Cunningham, Marreese Speights and Quincy Pondexter can rebound a bit, but they aren't the dominant force Randolph is.

Cunningham had started the first four games after Randolph went down, but Speights is stepping into the starting role now.

Speights has scored in double figures in three of the last four games, which is promising. Speights may be able to take advantage of the Bulls' issues in the starting frontcourt.

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 26:  Marreese Speights #16 of the Philadelphia 76ers drives to the basket while being defended by Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers in the first half at Staples Center on February 26, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. The L
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Carlos Boozer isn't much of a defender. Boozer can rebound, but doesn't do much else on defense. He isn't honest staying on his man. Also, Boozer tends to allow decent looks.

Joakim Noah hasn't been himself this season. While he has typically played with a great deal of energy in his career, Noah hasn't been as rangy this season. In the print edition of Sunday's Chicago Tribune, K.C. Johnson described Noah as seeming out of shape.

Johnson said, "Beyond him consistently fumbling rebounds, he is not...playing with much energy."

This could allow Speights, as well as Marc Gasol, some good looks.

Speights could use some easy looks to establish consistent shooting. He hit 4-of-5 field-goal attempts against the New Orleans Hornets after missing all six attempts against the New York Knicks.

While Speights may take his fair share of shots, Cunningham and Pondexter likely won't get a great amount of looks since they average only 9.5 field-goal attempts per game combined.

Can Rudy Gay Outlast Luol Deng?

Gay has an interesting matchup against Bulls forward Luol Deng. Gay is trying to reestablish himself as a sharpshooter. He is only shooting 44.1 percent from the field and 29.2 percent from three-point range this season. However, Gay has shot 48 percent in the last four games.

PHOENIX - DECEMBER 08:  Rudy Gay #22 of the Memphis Grizzlies puts up a shot against the Phoenix Suns during the NBA game at US Airways Center on December 8, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloadi
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Deng is a terrific defender. He was fourth in the NBA in defensive win shares (5.2) last season and currently leads the league with 1.1.

Deng has maintained good health in the last year. However, Deng may get tired due to the amount of minutes Bulls head coach Tom Thibedeau gives him. Deng averages 39.3 minutes per game this season and averaged 39.1 per game last season.

The only true small forward behind Deng is rookie Jimmy Butler. With little small forward depth, the Bulls lean heavily on Deng. This could swing the matchup in Gay's favor.

Deng will likely play 40 or more minutes, especially if the Grizzlies hang with the Bulls. Likely, Deng will grow fatigued in the fourth quarter. The Grizzlies might want to feed the ball to Gay more as the game progresses to take advantage of a weary Deng.

Can the Grizzlies Contain Derrick Rose?

Containing Rose would bring the Bulls much closer to victory.

Rose is the focal point of the Bulls offense. He'll single-handedly carry the team to victory as he did in the comeback win against the Atlanta Hawks. Also, he's the biggest scoring threat by far for the Bulls. He has two 30-point games and is the only Bulls player averaging 20—or even 15—points per game.

Rose makes the Bulls offense work. He averages 8.7 assists per game and has six 10-assist games.

With their MVP point guard, the Bulls offense functions well. Without him, as on Thursday against the Washington Wizards, the team seems chaotic. The Bulls shot only 36.7 percent and John Lucas III ran what seemed like a spastic improvisation clinic.

Fortunately, the Grizzlies are great defending the perimeter.

Mike Conley averages 2.3 steals per game and Tony Allen is averaging 1.9 steals per game. Allen is one of the toughest perimeter defenders in the league. He'll need to show it against the Bulls.

The Grizzlies will need to bring the "Grindhouse" defensive character that Allen instills to contain Rose. Conley and Allen will need to bring pressure. Also, Allen and Gay will need to defend any first pass coming towards them.

Keeping Rose to fewer than 15 points could be called a success. Also, holding Rose to a relatively small amount would help the Grizzlies hold the Bulls to the amount they need to bring a victory.

Conclusion: The Grizzlies Face the Bulls at the Best Time They Can Without Randolph

The Grizzlies have the best moment for this game against the Bulls, as far as the stretch without Randolph is concerned. For the Grizzlies, the game comes at the end of a four-game, seven-day home stand. The Grizzlies have won their last two games.

Despite winning each game of a back-to-back-to-back from Thursday to Saturday, the Bulls were out of sorts during that turn. They scored less than 90 points in all three games. The Bulls didn't play with great rhythm in any of the three games.

For a Grizzlies team trying to get by without its best player, this is a good time to attempt to beat the beast of the Eastern Conference.


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