CHICAGO – There were no grand celebrations or poignant tributes to the occasion, only a 48-minutes that pretty well represents the last year for the Bulls.
They did what they had to do against a struggling opponent, had issues holding onto the lead to make everyone a little nervous, but their main scorer came through to bail them out in the end. There were a few positives, but the 106-99 victory over a six-win Grizzlies team will be kept in the proper perspective.
That’s appropriate for the one-year anniversary of Jim Boylen taking over the Bulls, which happened on December 3, 2018 in Indianapolis with a loss to the Pacers. Wednesday was the 80th game the Bulls have played since then, with victory over Memphis taking them to 25-55 during that stretch.
Zach LaVine, as he has for a healthy amount of the Boylen era, led the way with 25 points and helped the Bulls build as much as a 22-point lead. As it also has a lot the last year, the Bulls struggled to hold the lead against a Memphis team that was without Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke, and cut the lead one on a Jae Crowder three-pointer with 4:29 left.
LaVine responded with a three-pointer and a jumper over the next two possessions to boost the lead back up to six. Lauri Markkanen, who had 15 points on the night, sealed the game with a shot behind the arc with 1:44 to go to make it an 11-point lead.
His effort was a bright spot and so was that of Wendell Carter Jr, who posted his second-consecutive double-double and 12th of the season. His hoop with 3:24 to go in the first half gave the Bulls a game-high 22 point lead, and while things got too close for comfort at the end, the team was still able to lead wire-to-wire for the first time in the 2019-2020 season.
This was also the first time the Bulls won back-to-back games in this campaign and just the fifth time they’ve won two-or-more contests in a row since last December. It’s a small step forward without a step back on this night as the team starts their second year of the Boylen era.