CHICAGO (AP) — Although closing out games remains astruggle, the Chicago Bulls have hung on to win two straight after severallosses in similar situations earlier in the season.
Zach LaVine scored 25 points, Wendell Carter Jr. had 16points and 13 rebounds, and Chicago beat the short-handed Memphis Grizzlies106-99 on Wednesday night after nearly losing a 22-point lead.
Lauri Markkanen had 15 points as the Bulls won consecutivegames for the first time.
Monday in Sacramento, the Bulls had a 19-point lead reducedto two late before winning 113-106.
“We gave up our lead again, but just like we did inSacramento, we made big plays down the stretch,” LaVine said. “Wekept our composure.”
While happy with the wins, Chicago coach Jim Boylen hopesfor more consistency to avoid the wild swings.
“We play good basketball for 12, 15 minutes, then weplay five minutes of poor basketball,” Boylen said. “Then it flips.Now we’ve got to get back and re-engage, play good basketball again.
“We’re learning how to do that. You’ve got to handlethose spurts. You’ve got to try to get back in the flow. I thought in the lasttwo games, we had enough plays to do that, settle down.”
Jonas Valanciunas had 32 points and 13 rebounds, and JarenJackson Jr. and Jae Crowder each scored 15 points for Memphis, which hasdropped eight of nine.
Rookie Ja Morant, the Grizzlies’ leading scorer at 18.6points per game, missed his third straight game with back soreness.
“I was doing everything that I can,” Valanciunassaid. “We need some wins. We’ve got to pull some out.”
The Bulls scored the game’s first seven points and had a13-2 lead after four minutes. Scoring consistently was a problem for Memphisthroughout the first half.
Chicago had its biggest lead at 50-28 with 3½ minutes to goin the second before the Grizzlies scored the final seven points of the quarterto make it 50-35 at halftime.
LaVine opened the scoring in the third quarter to make it52-35, but Memphis then ran off eight straight to pull within 52-43.
A few minutes later, the Chicago lead was down to 61-55following a five-point possession. De’Anthony Melton was fouled on a clear-pathcall and sank both free throws. After the Grizzlies inbounded the ball, Crowderhit a 3-pointer.
That was as close as Memphis would get in the third. TheBulls closed the quarter with a 17-5 run for a 78-64 edge heading into thefourth.
Chicago was leading 82-70 with 8½ minutes remaining beforethe Grizzlies went on a 17-6 run to make it 88-87 with 4½ minutes to play.
LaVine, though, answered with five quick points and KrisDunn hit a 3-pointer with 3 minutes left to get the lead back up to 96-87. TheBulls hung on from there.
Grizzlies: Valanciunas returned after missing the previoustwo games with flu-like symptoms. Before the game, coach Taylor Jenkins thoughthe might have to limit his center’s minutes, but he played 29 minutes, morethan his season average of 24.6. “I was winded,” he said. “Anice way to put it.” … Rookie F Brandon Clarke (left oblique soreness) andF Kyle Anderson (right heel soreness) also sat out.
Bulls: The team still is awaiting the results of a follow-upMRI on F Otto Porter (left foot bone bruise) to determine how much longer he’llbe sidelined. Porter hasn’t played since Nov. 6 at Atlanta … F ChandlerHutchison (right shoulder sprain) missed his third straight game … The Bullshave won six straight against Memphis.
IN THE CLUTCH
LaVine has scored at least 25 points in each of the lastfour games and has been making big plays down the stretch.
“When we get down to the nitty gritty, I have to put myhard hat on and make some plays,” he said. “It’s not just me. I thinkI made two, I made a pass to (Dunn) and he made a big one and (Markkanen) madea big one as well.”
Grizzlies: At the Utah Jazz on Saturday night in the secondof a four-game road trip.
Bulls: Host Golden State on Friday night after the Warriorswon 104-90 last week in the first meeting.