The Chicago Bulls’ weaknesses were on full display Saturday night in their 116-110 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. Ja Morant went off for 46 points to lead the Grizzlies, but that wasn’t the only problem for the Bulls.
The Grizzlies led by as many as 17 early in the fourth quarter before the Bulls came back and cut the deficit to two, but that’s as close as they’d get. While the team clearly had trouble defending Morant, it was the Bulls’ lack of size that really showed against the Grizzlies.
‘Couldn’t Secure Rebounds’
The Grizzlies dominated the Bulls on the glass outrebounding them 61-41. Grizzlies center Steven Adams grabbed 21 rebounds on his own. 19 of the Grizzlies’ rebounds were offensive rebounds that led to 20 second-chance points.
“We fought our way to get back in the game,” said Bulls coach Billy Donovan, “I thought we had a lot of opportunities to kind of maybe take the lead. We couldn’t rebound the ball, that was the first thing that went wrong for us coming down the stretch is we could not secure rebounds when we forced misses.”
Rebounding coincides with when of the Bulls’ biggest problems this season, which is a lack of size. In the absence of Patrick Williams, the team has been starting DeMar DeRozan (6-foot-6) and Javonte Green (6-foot-5) at the forward positions.
The lack of size has shown up big in the Bulls’ losses. Over the team’s last ten losses, the Bulls are -86 in rebounding margin. The team has been outrebounded in 17 of their 22 losses this season.
Fourteen of the Bulls’ 22 losses this season have come against current playoff teams. The team is just 6-14 in those matchups so far this season.
Correcting the Problem
The Bulls recently added veteran big man Tristan Thompson into the fold to help with their lack of size. So far Thompson has made a positive impact in limited minutes.
In two games Thompson has averaged 14.8 minutes and has been a plus-7 when he’s been on the floor for the Bulls. He’s averaged 8 points and 5 rebounds while shooting 71.4% from the field.
With the way Thompson has played so far, it’s possible the Bulls could increase his minutes to help with their lack of size. It’s unlikely they’d move him into the starting lineup, but 20-24 minutes a game out of Thompson seems possible.
Besides Thompson the Bulls getting healthy down the stretch is another thing that could help their rebounding. If Patrick Williams can return before the end of the regular season it would give the Bulls more interior size.
Another positive addition on the glass will be the return of Lonzo Ball, who is second on the team in rebounding at 5.4 per game. Getting him back in the lineup should be a boost for the team on the glass.
The other approach the Bulls might have to take is just doing a better job gang-rebounding and crashing the glass as a team. If the Bulls are going to be a serious threat in the postseason, they’ll have to be better rebounding. The team better figure it out soon because the schedule down the stretch is daunting.