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Without Zach LaVine, Bulls host slumping Grizzlies

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The Memphis Grizzlies will tip off a season-long, seven-game trip Friday night when they play the shorthanded Chicago Bulls.

The Bulls will be without leading scorer Zach LaVine, who reportedly has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols and is expected to miss multiple games. LaVine, an All-Star this season, had at least 30 points in three of his last four games.

Memphis, meanwhile, lost to Dallas on a dramatic, Luka Doncic buzzer-beating 3-pointer Wednesday, 114-113.

“We’re happy with how we played tonight, up to 1.8 seconds (left),” Ja Morant said in his postgame press conference. “No reason to have our heads down or anything.”

The defeat marked the third in the Grizzlies’ past four games and trimmed their lead over Golden State for eighth place in the Western Conference to one game. The win over that four-game stretch came Monday when Memphis overwhelmed Chicago in the fourth quarter of a 101-90 decision.

Jonas Valanciunas led the Grizzlies in the previous matchup with the Bulls, setting a franchise record of 15 consecutive double-doubles with 26 points and 14 rebounds. Valanciunas extended the streak to 16 games Wednesday with 19 points and 15 rebounds.

Eight of the 10-year veteran center’s rebounds against the Mavericks came on offense. Valanciunas has been excellent on that side of the glass, averaging 4.3 offensive rebounds per game for the season, including a 12-offensive-rebound game Sunday against Indiana.

His efforts were central to Memphis scoring a franchise record 30 second-chance points in the loss. Chicago has been one of the NBA’s best teams in keeping opponents off the offensive glass, allowing just 8.9 rebounds on that end per game, but surrendered 13 that Orlando converted into 21 second-chance points during the Bulls’ 115-106 loss on Wednesday.

The defeat marked Chicago’s fourth straight, and second over that stretch to an opponent with 37-plus losses. The Bulls dropped a 121-117 game at Minnesota on Sunday.

“I don’t look at it all as Minnesota’s record, Orlando’s record. We don’t have that luxury,” said Bulls coach Billy Donovan in his postgame press conference. “Because you know what? Is Minnesota saying the same thing about us? Is Memphis saying the same thing about us? Is Orlando saying the same thing about us?”

Chicago sits in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, the last spot that qualifies for the play-in tournament ahead of the NBA playoffs. The Bulls ended Wednesday just one game ahead of Toronto and Washington.

Chicago was a buyer before last month’s trade deadline, adding centers Nikola Vucevic and Daniel Theis from Orlando and Boston, respectively, as well as guard Troy Brown Jr.

Vucevic posted 29 points and 11 rebounds against his former team on Wednesday, and Theis came off the bench to score 16 points.

While the new acquisitions are contributing, the Bulls are seeking more consistent contribution from the entire roster on both ends of the floor.

Memphis, meanwhile, has relied on a balanced scoring approach, with no player averaging more than Morant’s 18.9 points per game and seven posting at least 10.1. One of the team’s double-figure point-per-game scorers, De’Anthony Melton, has missed the past six games with a leg injury.

Justise Winslow has been sidelined the past 10 games with a lingering thigh issue.

–Field Level Media

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