Do I Dare? … Do I Dare? … Yes! Back Putrid Grizzlies vs. Bulls

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, March 14, 2018 4:46 PM UTC

Wednesday, Mar. 14, 2018 4:46 PM UTC

The Memphis Grizzlies can tie a franchise record with their 19th straight loss Thursday night as fellow tanking team Chicago makes its lone visit of the season.

Chicago (23-44, 35-31-1 ATS) at Memphis (18-49, 27-38-2 ATS)Free NBA Pick: GrizzliesBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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There’s probably going to be some great basketball played around the country on Thursday night. There are nine games around the NBA and of course the first round of the NCAA Tournament getting underway. Yet, I’m here to preview Bulls-Grizzlies, an 8 p.m. ET tip from Memphis. There almost surely will NOT be good basketball played between two tanking teams. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be interesting. The winner here could be a big loser in terms of ping-pong balls for the draft lottery.

Chicago goes for the season sweep as it beat the visiting Grizzlies last Wednesday, 119-110 as a 3.5-point favorite (total of 211). The Bulls’ three young core players each scored at least 20 points: rookie Lauri Markkanen with 22, and Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn 21 each. Chicago almost gagged away a 21-point lead. Memphis rookie Dillon Brooks scored 20 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter in nearly leading an epic comeback. Marc Gasol, about the only recognizable member of the Grizzlies these days, added 17 points, seven assists and six rebounds.

The Bulls and Grizzlies split the 2016-17 series for the fourth-straight year. The road team has covered seven of the past 10 in the series.

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Not Much Good To Say About Grizz

The longest losing streak in NBA history is 28 straight by the Philadelphia 76ers over the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. The Sixers ended the first season by dropping 10 in a row and then their first 18 the next year. The streak ended on Dec. 1, 2015, in a 103-91 home decision over the Los Angeles Lakers – in Kobe Bryant’s final game in his Philadelphia hometown.

Now, I’m not saying that the injury-ravaged, 100 percent tanking Grizzlies will break that streak if they don’t win on Thursday – but they aren’t going to have many more realistic chances to do so this season. Memphis enters this one on an 18-game skid, one shy of the franchise record (set in Vancouver) and the longest of any Western Conference team in the past 20 years. The Grizzlies have given up 100 points in all but two games during the streak. One recent bright spot has been Brooks, who is averaging 20.2 points on 49.4 percent shooting in his past five.

The Grizzlies have played 67 games so obviously have just 15 remaining. Let’s just forget about Memphis winning on the road, where it is 5-27 and clearly won’t be favored at all. (OK, maybe at the Nets on March 19 or at Hornets on March 22.). Thus, I give the Grizzlies only two realistic chances at home of winning again this season: April 6 vs. Sacramento and April 8 vs. Detroit. Both will be eliminated from playoff contention by then. Memphis could tie the NBA record losing streak on April 1 in Portland. Then No. 29 could come April 4 in New Orleans.

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The #Bulls fell short against the Clippers, but Kris Dunn​ had himself a night. 18 points, 6 assists and 2 steals for the second-year guard in just 26 minutes: pic.twitter.com/mgsc3NJ0MD

— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) March 14, 2018
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Chicago has been a favorite only 10 times all season (6-4 ATS – that percentage of 60 is the fourth-best cover percentage as a favorite in the NBA), and I'm a tad surprised this isn't its first such role on the road with how terrible Memphis is. The Bulls are trying to tank just like Memphis, but Chicago has too many good players like Markkanen, LaVine and Dunn. The team recently was warned by Commissioner Adam Silver to stop resting veterans Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday simply to lose more, and the Bulls have put them back in the rotation here and there but not every game.

In Tuesday’s 112-106 home loss to the Clippers, Markkanen was a late scratch with back spasms. Doesn’t sound serious, but the Bulls have no reason to rush him back and he's not on this one-game trip. Lopez was in the lineup, but Holiday wasn’t.

I have no statistical reason for backing Memphis here, other than the guys on the court are still playing hard and would like to avoid tying the franchise record for consecutive losses. They will be aware this is one of the few chances left to get a W. Plus, the Bulls are just 1-8 ATS in their past nine road games and without their star rookie. Take Memphis for a Thursday NBA pick.

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