The first time the Gasol brothers faced each other this season, Pau told his teammates it was special. The second time he went up against Marc, they made history in New York.
With Pau’s Chicago Bulls and Marc’s Memphis Grizzlies both near the top of their respective conferences, the siblings meet again Monday night when the host Bulls try to avoid matching their longest skid of the season.
The Gasols grew up playing together in their grandmother’s backyard in Spain before competing for their national team. Last month, the veterans shared a historic moment when they became the first brothers to start in the All-Star game.
The 34-year-old Pau, who spent his first 6 1/2 seasons with Memphis, was making his fifth All-Star appearance, while 30-year-old Marc was voted by fans to his second.
Pau has been rejuvenated in his first season with Chicago (39-25), averaging 18.3 points – his most since 2010-11 – and a career-high 12.1 rebounds. Marc is scoring a career-best 18.0 per game for Southwest Division-leading Memphis (44-18).
"I’m just happy to see him do so well and also with his team, with the Grizzlies, a franchise that has also been a big part of my career," Pau said during the All-Star break. "I know he’s going to continue to do well."
Both players, however, would like to fare better than they did Dec. 19 when Chicago pulled out a 103-97 win in Memphis after dropping four of the prior five meetings. Pau had six points on 2-of-7 shooting, and Marc scored 13 while going 5 for 15.
"Pau told us that (the game) meant a lot for him," Bulls center Joakim Noah said after he had 10 points and 13 rebounds. "I like that sentimental (stuff)."
Jimmy Butler led the Bulls with 31 points, while Nikola Mirotic had 27 with six 3-pointers and Aaron Brooks added 17. Butler, Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson are now injured, but Mirotic has stepped up by averaging 21.4 points in his last five games.
The Grizzlies could use a better performance after shooting 39.4 percent and missing 11 of 13 from 3-point range in the December defeat. Mike Conley was a bright spot with 21 points, but he’s averaged 9.5 while shooting 32.4 percent in six visits to United Center.
This meeting features two of the league’s top defensive clubs. Memphis allows a league-low 95.6 points per game, while Chicago ranks in the top 10 in defensive field-goal percentage at 44.1. The Bulls, however, need to clean things up after committing 22 turnovers and letting San Antonio shoot 48.9 percent in Sunday’s 116-105 defeat.
Pau Gasol had his NBA-best 42nd double-double with 23 points and 15 boards, Brooks scored 22 and Mirotic added 19.
Chicago is in a tight race with Cleveland and Toronto for the East’s No. 2 seed as it looks to avoid a third straight loss. The club has won five of seven at home following impressive victories over Washington and Oklahoma in its past two.
Memphis owns a 1 1/2-game advantage over Houston for the second spot in the West after opening a four-game trip by blowing an 18-point lead in a 95-89 loss to New Orleans on Saturday. Jeff Green finished with 20 points and Conley added 17, but Marc Gasol scored eight on 2-of-7 shooting and Zach Randolph had seven while missing seven of 10.
"We’re still learning, still got a lot of work to do," said Randolph, who has averaged 10.2 points on 31.5 percent shooting in his last five versus Chicago.