Chicago vs Memphis: Bulls on Parade (Going Down Beale Street)

The Memphis Grizzlies will host the Chicago Bulls in the first game at FedExForum this season on Friday, two nights after a 120-101 loss to the Miami Heat in the season opener.

Memphis will hope to get their first win of the season against a Bulls team that also lost their first game of the year, a 125-126 contest at Charlotte. 

The Grizzlies showing in Miami featured several promising performances from individual players, and an overall competitive squad for the first three quarters.

Then the fourth quarter happened.

Frustration mounted throughout the team with every foul call, missed three, and dunk given up on defense, culminating in a 24-1 Heat run in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach. Several factors contributed to the loss, one of note being the team shooting 5/32 (15.6%) from 3. In fact, shooting from anywhere outside of paint proved to be an issue Wednesday night.

If “letting it fly” from 3 is the offensive philosophy head coach Taylor Jenkins wants to go with this season, then the Grizzlies flew with a broken wing on Wednesday night. Couple this with foul trouble (4 starters with 4 or more fouls, 31 fouls committed total) as well as some rust from Jonas Valančiūnas (understandable, given that he missed the preseason with a foot injury and therefore missed valuable time to gel with an almost entirely new team) and one has a good idea on where the Grizzlies can improve on in Friday’s matchup with the Bulls. 

The Bulls are an interesting team to observe through the lens of a Memphis Grizzlies fan. The way Chicago has built their team in recent years, specifically through the draft and trades, has mirrored Memphis’ own history fairly well. Both teams selected highly skilled big men towards the top of the 2018 draft (Memphis with Jaren Jackson Jr at 4, Chicago with Wendell Carter Jr. at 7) and then selected dynamic point guards near the top of this year’s draft (Memphis with Ja Morant at 2, Chicago with Coby White at 7). Both teams have also filled out multiple current starting positions through trades (Memphis with the Mike Conley and Marc Gasol trades, Chicago with the 2017 Jimmy Butler trade that brought Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen to Chicago). 

When discussing the current day Bulls, the first name that normally comes to mind is Zach LaVine, two-time Slam Dunk Contest Winner and Chicago’s leading scorer last year.

This is with good reason, as LaVine has developed from “a really good dunker” to a genuine franchise player for the Bulls. But Lauri Markkanen is the player that many have deemed the true breakout player for the Bulls in 2019.

This prediction by many has proved fruitful already this season, as Lauri posted a 35p/17r line in Chicago’s opener against Charlotte.

Chicago’s starting lineup also features Tomáš Satoransky, a point guard acquired from Washington in a sign-and-trade this offseason who beat both the aforementioned top draft choice Coby White and last year’s starter Kris Dunn in a battle for the starting spot. Also featured as starters are forward Otto Porter Jr. and center Wendell Carter Jr. The main reserves of note are the previously mentioned Coby White and Kris Dunn, as well as forward Thaddeus Young, who signed with Chicago this past offseason coming from Indiana. These three reserves combined for 45 points off the bench in the Charlotte game, and will provide a challenge for Memphis’ bench. 

If Memphis wishes to improve upon their 15% 3 point shooting and truly “let it fly” from three without making FedExForum look like a brick factory, then the Chicago Bulls may be exactly what the doctor ordered. In Chicago’s loss to the Hornets, the Bulls gave up 23 threes, allowing Charlotte to shoot 52% from three. These looks were apparently very easy to come by for Charlotte.

If Memphis can’t “let it fly” on Friday night, then everyone should look deep inside themselves and ask a philosophical question of utmost importance and grand magnitude. 

“Are grizzly bears meant to fly?” 

— u/HLee51

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