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Grizzlies spoil Rose's return to Memphis
After talking excitedly all week about seeing coach John Calipari and his former college teammates, Derrick Rose's interaction was limited to a brief conversation on a runway as the Bulls landed and the University of Memphis prepared to fly to Washington.
Perhaps Rose forgot to check a pocket schedule touting the school's game at Georgetown.
Similarly, the Bulls played Friday night as if they never had consulted a scouting report on the Grizzlies in a 103-96 loss at FedEx Forum.
Letting Rudy Gay consistently find his comfort zone and failing to match Hakim Warrick's energy off the bench, the Bulls failed to reach .500 or better after 22 games—a mark they have achieved just twice since 1997-98.
"We missed an opportunity," coach Vinny Del Negro said.
Gay and Darko Milicic tied their season-highs with 29 and 13 points, respectively, and Milicic posted a double-double with 11 rebounds.
Warrick scored 21 points on 9-for-12 shooting mostly from in close, helping Memphis to a staggering 52-26 advantage in the paint.
"We tried changing defenses," Del Negro said. "We couldn't handle their penetration. They were breaking us down."
A crowd of 17,132 came to see Rose, almost 6,000 more fans than what typically arrive for the franchise with the league's lowest average attendance. The fans greeted Rose with a standing ovation.
"It felt like I was at home," Rose said. "They supported me, and I love them for that."
Ben Gordon, who led the Bulls with 29 points, came out smoother than an Elvis ballad, barely rippling the net on three three-pointers in the first five minutes. He scored 18 of the Bulls' first 26 points, hitting 5 of 6 three-pointers, but had to sit at the 3:38 mark with two fouls.
The Bulls led by as many as 14 after shooting 61 percent in the opening quarter but surrendered an 11-0 Grizzlies run that ended early in the second. By this time, Gordon had sat after picking up his third foul just 35 seconds in.
"I was locked in and I figured after I hit the first few, I would continue to be aggressive," Gordon said. "But it was tough to keep that rhythm because I sat so long."
Larry Hughes came off the bench to resume his torrid shooting of late. He scored 12 first-half points while missing only one shot as the Bulls led 54-52 at the break.
Hughes failed to score in the second half as the defensive wheels fell off in the third period when Memphis shot 57 percent. Still, the Bulls pulled to within 91-85 on a spectacular Rose layup with 5:28 left. That's when Warrick scored eight of the Grizzlies' next 10 points, including back-to-back baskets following Drew Gooden misses.
Trailing 95-87, the Bulls' last gasp got snuffed when Luol Deng missed two shots from in close on consecutive possessions.
"I still had fun," Rose said. "I wish I could stay a couple more days."
Perhaps by then, the Bulls could figure out how to guard Gay and Warrick.