Grizzlies, Bulls meet with NBA draft lottery on line

Two teams headed in opposite directions in the race for positioning at the NBA draft lottery meet Thursday night in Memphis when the Grizzlies host the Chicago Bulls.

A loss at home to Chicago would go a long way toward assuring the Grizzlies (18-49) will finish the regular season with the worst record in the NBA.

Memphis currently holds that distinction but has plenty of company. Eight teams will enter play Thursday with between 18 and 23 wins.

The Grizzlies have the least of the bunch, and also have a tough remaining schedule, especially after facing Chicago. They will face just two of the bottom eight teams (Brooklyn on Monday, Sacramento on April 6) in their final 14 games.

No doubt, Memphis begins the stretch run in the worst form. The Grizzlies have lost 18 in a row, dating back to a 120-109 win over Phoenix on Jan. 29.

Recent showings have given no indication that the losing streak is in jeopardy. Memphis has lost its last five games by an average of 18.0 points, scoring just 93.4 points in those contests.

Among the games in that stretch was a 119-110 loss at Chicago last Wednesday. The Bulls used balanced scoring to overcome a 29-point performance by Grizzlies rookie Dillon Brooks in the wire-to-wire victory.

Memphis center Marc Gasol seemed to be calling out some teammates when he assessed Monday's 121-103 loss to Milwaukee in the opener of a three-game homestand.

"Obviously, it's multiple things," he said of the reasons for the defeat. "But at this point, it's irrelevant completely. It's about finding enough guys to go to battle and win a game."

Brooks has done his part of late. As the Memphis offense has headed south in the last five games, he has averaged 20.2 points, hitting 49 percent of his shots and 44 percent of his 3-pointers.

With three wins in their last seven games, the Bulls (23-44) basically find themselves with little chance of finishing the season with the worst record.

Their problems have been at the defensive end, having allowed 20 of their last 21 opponents to score 100 or more points. And the 21st reached 99.

Chicago was able to overcome its defensive woes in a 129-122 win at Atlanta on Sunday but couldn't keep up with the Los Angeles Clippers in a 112-106 home loss on Monday.

Bulls management admitted recently that the club has come under scrutiny from the NBA in regards to "tanking", especially in regards to their starting lineups and willingness to rest healthy players.

Chicago admitted no wrongdoing.

"After the All-Star break, we had communication with the league office about Robin (Lopez's) and Justin (Holiday's) roles," Bulls vice president John Paxson reported. "After healthy dialogue, the league determined that their situations fall into the 'player rest' policy. We respect the communication and cooperative dialogue with the league and will adhere to their recommendations going forward."

Lopez started but played just 12 minutes in Monday's loss to the Clippers. Holiday sat out after having played a total of 29 minutes in the previous two games.

Holiday (14 points) played 17 minutes while Lopez sat out in last week's win over Memphis.
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