MEMPHIS, Tenn. --- The Bulls can lack energy and still win games, as they proved in Saturday night's win over Toronto. When they lack energy and Derrick Rose, it's another story.
Throw in some of the worst defense since coach Tom Thibodeau came to Chicago and they had no chance in 102-86 loss to the Grizzlies in a nationally televised Martin Luther King Day matinee.
Struggling without Rose, who re-aggravated his sprained left big toe and sat out his second game this season, is understandable. But the Bulls entered Monday's game as the league's top defensive team and best rebounding unit. They did neither when it mattered and had 13 first half turnovers against a Grizzlies team they defeated by 40 points in their home opener on New Year's Day.
"I don't think we did a god job mentally," forward Luol Deng said. "We should've been ready for them. We should've known anytime you beat a team like that in the NBA the next time they can't wait to see you. We should've been more prepared. In the second half we did a better job of fighting harder but we should've fought like that the entire game."
C.J. Watson returned for the first time since spraining his elbow in the home opener and gave the team life late in the third quarter. For the second straight game, Taj Gibson came off the bench to provide same. With Watson and Gibson leading the way, the Bulls cut a Memphis lead that had ballooned to as much as 27 to nine midway through the fourth quarter.
The Grizzlies responded with nine straight points to end the Bulls' comeback bid.
"When you allow easy shots early on it allows them to get confidence," Thibodeau said. "Once a player has confidence in this league it's much harder to slow them down. They made some tough shots later in the game but that was after they had gotten a ton of easy shots. They played well. Give them credit."
The first half was like a dunk contest and Memphis was the only participant. The Grizzlies made 14 of their first 18 shots and never looked back. They shot 77.8 percent in the first quarter, 69 percent in the first half and 54 percent for the game. They had 16 dunks or layins in the first half alone.
Luol Deng led the Bulls with 20 points. Watson had 17 and Gibson 16 and four rebounds. Rudy Gay led the Grizzlies with 24 while Mike Conley had 20. Marc Gasol had 19 points and 10 rebounds
"Anytime you're missing D-Rose it's tough but I thought C.J. played great coming in in his first game back," forward Carlos Boozer said. "He gave us a huge lift."
Boozer and Joakim Noah were on the bench when the Bulls made their rally. It was the third time in four games that two starters have not been on the floor during the fourth quarter. In this case, however, it was more a product of Thibodeau pressing to try to get back in the game. Gibson sets the trap and therefore remained in the game.
Boozer was the only Bulls player who was ready to go when the ball went up. He scored 10 points in the first quarter and finished with 13.
"We've got to be ready," Thibodeau said. "I have to do a better job of getting them ready."