The Grizzlies (7-15) had lost eight in a row before firing coach David Fizdale last week. They have since added three to the losing streak with Bickerstaff at the helm, although there have been no soft spots on the schedule, falling twice to the San Antonio Spurs and then Saturday to the Cavaliers in Cleveland.
If there were anything encouraging in Saturday’s effort, it was the Memphis offense. The Grizzlies not only topped 100 points for the first time since Nov. 15, but they did so convincingly, shooting 51.2 percent and scoring 111 points in a five-point loss.
The game was tied with 2:10 remaining.
Tyreke Evans, starting at point guard in place of injured Mike Conley, led the offensive uprising with 31 points and 12 assists. He took 20 shots, which was 13 more than he attempted one night earlier in a 95-79 home loss to San Antonio.
“I was just trying to be too much of a point guard, getting everybody involved, but (Bickerstaff) just told me to do the same but be aggressive,” Evans said of the difference in his performances. “That’s what I did. I was being aggressive and took what the defense gave me.”
The Grizzlies haven’t won since Nov. 7. Conley played just two games after that before being shelved because of Achilles soreness.
He returned to light workouts last week but isn’t expected to play until at least Friday against the Toronto Raptors.
Memphis plays four of its next five games at home, where it has lost eight straight.
The Grizzlies will be facing the Timberwolves for the first time this season. Recent results against Minnesota have been good.
Memphis hasn’t lost a season series to Minnesota since 2009, going 23-7 over that stretch. The Grizzlies won both home games last season en route to a 3-1 win in the season series.
But things have changed, not only in Memphis but also with Minnesota. The Timberwolves find themselves where the Grizzlies have spent the last seven seasons — hanging with the playoff contenders.
The Timberwolves haven’t made the playoffs since 2004.
Minnesota’s Sunday win came at the expense of another perennial playoff contender that has fallen upon hard times — the Clippers. Timberwolves newcomer Jimmy Butler led the way with 33 points.
The total was a season high and continued a hot run in which Butler has scored 20 or more points in eight of his past 13 games after starting the season with just two 20-point nights among Minnesota’s first 11 games.
“That shows you why he’s such an elite player in this league,” Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns said of Butler. “I was glad to have the popcorn right there and have a front-row seat for it because it was amazing.”