The Chicago Bulls attempt to avoid back-to-back road losses to start the season on Friday when they visit the Memphis Grizzlies.
Chicago is coming off a 126-125 loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday in which the Bulls squandered a 10-point lead in the last 6:19. The collapse followed a feel-good preseason for the Bulls, who added several veterans during the offseason and hope to make a playoff run in the Eastern Conference.
Clearly, some work remains.
"We need to do a better job of executing down the stretch," said Bulls coach Jim Boylen, who emphasized to reporters the importance of ball movement on offense.
"When the ball sticks, we're not as good a team. I thought the ball stuck a little bit at the end there (against Charlotte). We've got to get good shots."
Memphis will attempt to prevent that from happening.
The Grizzlies are coming off a 120-101 loss against the Miami Heat in the season opener on Wednesday that also featured an ugly fourth quarter. Memphis led 84-83 at the end of the third quarter, only to be outscored 37-17 by Miami in the final 12 minutes.
Tempers flared down the stretch after Grizzlies rookie Ja Morant tumbled to the floor following a hard foul by Chris Silva. Morant's teammate, Jaren Jackson Jr., delivered a shoulder check to Silva and knocked the ball out of his hands after the play.
Look for Memphis to keep playing with an edge, even if it might be the underdog most nights.
"It's just a part of the game," Jackson said, via the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "You've got to have your teammate's back out there. That's what it's all about. He has my back and I have his back. Everybody has each other's back out there."
Morant was not injured on the play and finished with 14 points on 6-for-12 shooting during his NBA debut. He was the No. 2 overall pick in this year's draft out of Murray State.
The 20-year-old wants to take another step forward against Chicago in his second game.
"I felt like I could have been better in a lot of places," Morant told the Commercial Appeal.
The Bulls will look for another big night from Lauri Markkanen, who scored 35 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in 34 minutes against the Hornets. Rookie Coby White and veteran Thaddeus Young contributed 17 points apiece.
Chicago's Otto Porter Jr. is hoping to bounce back from a shaky first game in which he scored nine points on 3-for-10 shooting. Porter missed four of five attempts from beyond the 3-point arc.
Better floor spacing is a priority for Porter and his teammates.
"There's always room for improvement," Porter said, via the Chicago Sun-Times. "We've just got to make sure we got our spacing down and transition it. Especially running this multi-ballhandler system, we want to make sure we have space. That's a big thing."
The Bulls won both meetings against the Grizzlies last season, a 122-110 decision at home on Feb. 13 and a 109-107 victory in Memphis on Feb. 27.
--Field Level Media
Bulls, Grizzlies aim to avoid 0-2 start
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