For two days, we get to feel what it's like being in the West. A day after falling to the San Antonio Spurs, the Bulls will have to try to bounce back against another powerhouse team in the Memphis Grizzlies.
The short handed Bulls have fallen to 3rd place in the East, a half game behind Cleveland, a half game ahead of Toronto. The value in clinging to the two seed would be home court in the second round in the playoffs. The value in the three seed would potentially be avoiding a first round matchup with the suddenly hot Indiana Pacers.
If Indiana makes it to the sixth seed (they are five games back with 20 to play) then the three seed would lose any appeal.
I only caught about half of the Spurs game, so it's tough to give much of a thorough analysis of what happened. The Bulls fell into a hole early and simply couldn't buy a bucket. The fought back to make it reasonably close at the end of the first, but fell right back into that hole at the beginning of the second.
Looking at the box score, it looks like they found their shooting later as they shot over 50% from the floor as a team, better than San Antonio in fact. Unfortunately, they turned the ball over 22 times to San Antonio's seven which allowed the Spurs to hoist an additional 17 shots, and that appeared to be the difference.
Tony Snell had another rough day and after a great February has cooled off in March so far. I'm okay being a bit patient with Snell because his defense has improved considerably and his three point shooting has still generally been solid. I think I'm still sold on Snell as a rotation player, but I don't think he's more than a minor one.
E'Twaun Moore had a solid night and perhaps more importantly played more minutes than Hinrich. When Butler and Rose are healthy, my hope is that Hinrich is forgotten from this rotation as Moore seems to have pretty cleanly outplayed him at both ends of the floor.
I will say Hinrich does facilitate a bit more ball movement than Moore/Brooks, but he's so much worse at everything else that this minor skill isn't worth keeping him in the game for.
Nikola Mirotic seems to have taken it upon himself to replace Jimmy Butler in terms of getting to the charity stripe. Since moving to PF, he's received a ridiculous amount of foul calls, especially for a rookie. In his last seven games his ft attempts are: 5 (in 18 mins), 8, 11, 16, 5, and 9.
That's pretty ridiculous right there. Hopefully the Bulls can find a way to continue to play him at PF more frequently than SF.
Grizzlies present an interesting challenge
The Grizzlies are a strong team, but much like the Bulls, they've been playing around .500 ball for awhile now. They just blew a big lead against the Pelicans to fall Saturday, so they'll also be trying to get back on track with this game.
The Grizzlies can go through similar scoring droughts as Chicago and have a similar front team in terms of front court strength and not as much perimeter play. Given the Bulls present injuries, I'd favor any elite team over them which includes the Grizzlies, however, this is a game I could see Chicago pulling out.
Memphis has size in the front court, but they don't have all that much athleticism, and I like the Bulls odds against teams that don't have athletic advantages with their bigs. Chicago may struggle to contain Conley and Green's athleticism on the perimeter, but they can always help on those guys.
The question with the Bulls will come down who scores points. Scoring didn't ultimately prove a big problem against San Antonio (surprisingly), and if Chicago can get a quality shooting effort again then I think they'll have a good shot.
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