8:00 PM ET, December 30, 2013
FedExForum, Memphis, TN
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Bulls guard Jimmy Butler believes he's getting his rhythm back after missing 12 games this season with injuries.
Butler, who missed 11 games earlier this season with a right toe injury and sat out one game on Dec. 21 with a right ankle problem, shot 6 for 10 overall and 2 of 3 on 3-pointers. He also was 12 of 14 at the foul line in a team-high 41 minutes.
"I'm getting real comfortable," Butler said. "I sat down with a few of the vets, and they just talked to me and told me to play my game and have fun. When you have fun, everything else takes care of itself."
D.J. Augustin had 10 points off the bench for the Bulls, including eight in the fourth period as Memphis tried to make a late run.
"We played poorly," Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said. "We played poor in the first half and worse in the third quarter."
Mike Conley finished with 26 points, nine assists, six rebounds and six steals to lead the Grizzlies, who had won three of four. James Johnson scored 13 points, all in the second half, and grabbed 10 rebounds before fouling out with 4:10 left.
Tony Allen also had 13 points but Memphis committed a season-high 21 turnovers.
"It was awful," Joerger said. "We threw the ball all over the place. We lacked focus. We lacked screening and cutting. We were loose with the ball."
The Bulls also had 21 turnovers but they won despite playing again without leading scorer Luol Deng, who missed his fifth straight game with a sore left Achilles.
Chicago's defense began causing real problems for the Grizzlies in the third as the Bulls opened the second half with a 20-4 run, fueled by a handful of Memphis turnovers and the Grizzlies missing 11 of their first 13 shots.
That contributed to the Bulls extending the lead to 18 and eventually carrying a 71-64 advantage into the fourth quarter.
Memphis, led by Conley, chipped away at Chicago's 18-point advantage -- its largest of the night. The Grizzlies pulled to 72-71 in the fourth and 78-76 later, both after scores by Johnson.
Augustin nailed a long 3-pointer as the shot clock expired with about 6 minutes left to answer Johnson's second score.
"It was a tough shot at a tough moment," Augustin said. "Whenever somebody does that to a team, it takes away their momentum. They had it going at the time."
Augustin's basket started a 10-2 run, capped by Kirk Hinrich's 3-pointer with 3:33 left, that pushed the Bulls' lead back to 10.
That was enough for Chicago to earn its fourth victory in the last 12 games.
"It's very tough against them," Conley said. "You can't give them a 15-point lead and expect to not be worn out by the time you get the ball back and you're down two. They're a fantastic defensive team. They work hard. They have a bunch of guys that love to play D. It was tough."
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau missed the morning shootaround to attend his father's funeral in Connecticut. The elder Thibodeau died on Christmas Day, according to published reports. "Our family, once I saw they were good, I felt good about (coaching)," Thibodeau said before the game. ... Bulls G Derrick Rose, who played one season at the University of Memphis, missed the game with his right knee injury. Rose has returned only twice to Memphis to play against the Grizzlies in his NBA career. ... Conley's 26 points were the most he has had since scoring 28 against Minnesota on Dec. 15 -- the last game before he missed two straight with a left thigh bruise. ... Chicago was 6 for 15 from 3-point range.
MEMPHIS, TN - DECEMBER 30: Tom Thibodeau of the Chicago Bulls greets David Joerger of the Memphis Grizzlies before...(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
Around The Association
MVP: Jimmy Butler. With Luol Deng out for Chicago, the Bulls needed buckets, and Butler obliged with a season-high 26 points, 14 of which came in the third quarter.
That was ... a gritty game of runs. Chicago opened the third quarter with a blistering 20-4 run. Memphis then awoke, rattling off 24 points to the Bulls' eight over the final minutes of the third and beginning of the fourth.
Turning point: After cutting an 18-point deficit to just two midway through the fourth quarter, Memphis had the home crowd at its back. With the shot clock expiring, D.J. Augustin hurled a 26-foot, 3-point prayer that splashed in. It was as close as Memphis would get the rest of the way.
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