The Chicago Bulls and Memphis Grizzlies trudged through the season’s first two months as two of the most disappointing teams in the NBA.
Since the turn of the new year, they’ve been two of the league’s best.
Chicago will be looking for its 11th victory in 13 games Friday night when it hosts Memphis.
The Bulls (34-27) and Grizzlies (34-26) were a combined 25-35 from October-December, but they’re 43-18 since. Chicago has been particularly good recently, winning five straight at home by an average of 19.6 points.
Balanced scoring has keyed the Bulls on the offensive end, with reserves D.J. Augustin and Taj Gibson combining for 48 points in Wednesday’s 105-94 win at Detroit. Eight players have scored 19-plus at least once during the 10-2 stretch.
"A lot of guys are stepping up on this team right now," said Gibson, who is averaging 13.4 points – 4.4 better than his previous career high. "Everyone is working hard and helping in whatever way we need. The guys are just focused on the team right now."
Joakim Noah tallied 10 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists for his sixth career triple-double and second in three games. He’s averaging 13.3 points, 11.5 rebounds and 7.2 assists while shooting 54.0 percent over his last 13 contests.
However, Noah has been relatively ineffective over his last six starts versus Memphis, averaging 7.3 points on 41.9 percent shooting. Carlos Boozer’s 20.1 career scoring average against the Grizzlies is his highest versus any team.
Memphis will be trying to bounce back from a 103-94 loss at Brooklyn on Wednesday, outscoring the Nets 34-16 in the final quarter to make the final margin closer. The Grizzlies shot 43.0 percent after knocking down 53.3 percent of their shots over the previous three games.
Mike Conley shot 0 for 8 against the Nets, marking the first time in more than four years he failed to make a shot on at least six attempts. Conley, who also matched a season high with six turnovers, was coming off 22- and 20-point performances in back-to-back wins over Cleveland and Washington.
"It was a tough night," coach Dave Joerger said. "We had some guys really, really struggle tonight."
The Grizzlies were without Zach Randolph due to flu-like symptoms, and he’s listed as day to day. Ed Davis was scoreless over 13 minutes while starting in his place, while Jon Leuer scored a team-high 19 off the bench.
Randolph was limited to 10 points on 4-of-15 shooting in a 95-91 home loss to Chicago on Dec. 30. Jimmy Butler scored a season-high 26 for the Bulls as both teams committed 21 turnovers.
Randolph, tied with Conley for the team lead with 17.3 points per game, is averaging 8.8 points on 27.8 percent shooting in his last four matchups with the Bulls.
Chicago has been dominant on the boards during the 10-2 spurt, averaging a plus-10.8 margin. Memphis averages a plus-2.6 margin but has been outrebounded in eight of its last 14 games.
The Bulls are 14-4 all-time at home against the Grizzlies.