Starters exit as a convoy

Told he had started the same lineup for 14 straight games before Thursday night's 108-93 loss to the Grizzlies at the Pyramid, Bulls coach Scott Skiles jokingly interjected, "Has it been that long?"

Little did he know his quip could serve as foreshadowing.

Upset with the continuing trend of poor second-half starts, Skiles used a rare five-man substitution just 4 minutes 33 seconds into the third quarter.

Out came Kirk Hinrich, Jamal Crawford, Kendall Gill, Jerome Williams and Antonio Davis. In went Rick Brunson, Ronald Dupree, Marcus Fizer, Corie Blount and Eddy Curry, and they trimmed an 18-point deficit to nine.

Such a move always reminds veteran Bulls watchers of the Nov. 8, 2001, night in Minnesota when Tim Floyd did the same thing in a franchise-worst 53-point loss. Charles Oakley responded with a classic ripfest that cost him a $50,000 fine and marked the beginning of the end for Floyd.

Skiles isn't going anywhere, which is why Davis and Gill sat the rest of the way, Crawford for the next 13:55 and Hinrich for the next 16:21.

"You make a decision whether two or three guys can somehow battle and get back in the game or pull the plug and go with fresh bodies and try to get something going," Skiles said. "That was an easy decision."

Asked if he would consider lineup changes for Saturday night's game against the Knicks, Skiles didn't hesitate.

"Definitely," he said.

Gill played just eight minutes and also got pulled 3:09 after tipoff for Eddie Robinson.

"I've been professional my whole career, and I'm going to stay professional," Gill said. "Right now, what I have to say won't be professional."

Gill has averaged 11 minutes in his last three games.

"I don't feel I'm struggling," he said. "I have no idea. Nothing has been said to me."

Later in the fourth, the Bulls pulled to within seven points once and eight points on three occasions as an active Scottie Pippen led the charge.

But Memphis, paced by James Posey's 23 points, held on.

Hinrich committed five of the Bulls' 22 turnovers and said: "This was one of my worst games. I got tentative."

Besides the second-half stretch that drew Skiles' ire, the Bulls didn't fare too well over the final 4:44 of the first half either. That's when poor shot selection, poor defensive transition, six turnovers and blown defensive assignments turned a one-point deficit into a 56-42 halftime gap.

The 16-3 run, capped by Jason Williams' half-court shot that just beat the buzzer, sent the Bulls to the locker room as a demoralized group.

Before Williams' highlight shot, Memphis' run gained fuel when Ted Bernhardt whistled Davis and Skiles for back-to-back technical fouls. Davis argued a no-call on a missed dunk, and Skiles followed suit.

"We're not playing consistent enough from an effort standpoint to be a winning team in the NBA," Skiles said.