Gasol had 18 points and 10 rebounds, and Memphis used its stout defense to beat Chicago 85-77 Friday night.
“Our defense was pretty steady,” Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said. “Thirty-nine in the first half, 38 in the second half. That was just solid for us. We kept them off the glass and they’re a good offensive rebounding team. We contested shots and we pressured guys.”
Mike Miller made four 3-pointers and finished with 14 points as the Grizzlies closed out a three-game road trip with their third victory in four games. Zach Randolph added 10 points and 11 rebounds after missing Wednesday’s 103-94 loss at Brooklyn with the flu.
Taj Gibson’s rebound basket with 3:15 to go was Chicago’s only score in the final 5:53 of the game. Mike Conley made two free throws to make it 83-77 with 2:14 remaining and Gasol closed out the scoring with a putback with 21.9 seconds left.
“At times it was tough to score on both ends of the court, but they got second-chance shots and hustle plays and that won the game for them, I think,” Gibson said.
Gasol missed the Grizzlies' 95-91 loss to the Bulls in Memphis on Dec. 30 due to a sprained left knee. But the league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year made a difference in this one, blocking three shots and helping hold Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer in check.
“I think especially in the second half we did a much better job of coming back and playing two sides of the floor and balancing when they swung the ball to the weak side, everybody moved,” Gasol said.
Gibson had 18 points for Chicago, which had won 10 of 12. Playing with a sprained right thumb, Noah finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and six assists, but also had six of the Bulls‘ 13 turnovers.
“The rebounding was the name of the game,” Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said.
Memphis (35-26) and Chicago (34-28) have used similar approaches to contend for the playoffs despite some injury issues.
Heading into the weekend, the Bulls were the NBA’s second-best defensive team at 92.3 points per game, followed by the Grizzlies at 95.2. Memphis was averaging 95.7 points, good for 25th in the 30-team NBA, with Chicago last in the league at 93.3 per game.
The Grizzlies and Bulls even had nearly identical records coming into the night. But due to the strength of their respective conferences, the Grizzlies were ninth in the West, one game out of a playoff spot, while the Bulls were fourth in the East.