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Feb 7, 2024 8:03 pm

Coby White hot for Bulls, while next foe Grizzlies in cold stretch

Coby White

The Chicago Bulls begin a four-game road swing on Thursday when they visit the slumping, injury-plagued Memphis Grizzlies.

Coby White is on a tear heading into the road trip, which will send Chicago into the All-Star break. White scored at least 25 points in five of the last seven games, including the last three straight with 35 points on Jan. 31 at Charlotte and 26 last Saturday vs. Sacramento before going for 33 points on Tuesday in a 129-123 overtime victory over visiting Minnesota.

Thirty of White’s points came after halftime to lead the Bulls from down as many as 23 points. He matched DeMar DeRozan for a team high, continuing to fill the backcourt scoring void left with Zach LaVine sidelined by a right foot injury.

Bulls officials announced on Saturday that LaVine’s injury will keep the career 20.5-point per game scorer, who has been out the last eight contests, away for the rest of the season.

White’s emergence has resulted in the fifth-year guard bumping his average up to 19.4 points per game for the season, nearly the same as LaVine’s 19.5 in 2023-24.

Following his big second half and overtime vs. Minnesota, White received a public endorsement from the veteran DeRozan, who interrupted White’s postgame interview with NBC Sports Chicago to shout, “Coby White is a bad man.”

As for the torrid second-half comeback, White said it is a scenario Chicago wants to avoid going forward.

“It’s not a fun way, digging yourself a hole,” White said via Bulls.com. “We’ve got to figure out a way not to let the first and second half look so drastically different.”

Chicago ranks second-to-last in the NBA in average first-quarter scoring with 26 points, and is among the bottom six in second-quarter points at 27.5.

The Bulls will look to start fast against the struggling Grizzlies. Memphis comes into Thursday’s matchup on a six-game losing skid following Tuesday’s 123-113 setback at New York.

Vince Williams Jr. led the Grizzlies with 19 points, returning to the lineup after missing Sunday’s 40-point loss in Boston due to a wrist injury. The second-year wing has stepped up amid a rash of injuries on the Memphis roster, scoring in double-figures in his last 11 appearances.

Rookie GG Jackson II scored 16 points off the bench in his fifth game scoring in double-figures over the last six. Jackson had not played more than 12 minutes in six appearances prior to Jan. 13, but has logged more than 20 in nine games since.

“This was a great learning opportunity,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said via the Commercial Appeal. “We have guys who have never played together, and they are trying to figure it out.”

Trey Jemison, who Memphis signed to a 10-day contract last week, made his first career start on Tuesday and went for 12 points, seven rebounds and a pair of blocks.

Jemison started in place of Jaren Jackson Jr., one of the many sidelined Grizzlies. Memphis had Ja Morant in the lineup just nine games following his return from suspension before he sustained a season-ending right shoulder injury.

Jackson missed the last two games due to a hip injury. Desmond Bane is out with an ankle injury and Marcus Smart is dealing with a finger injury. Both Smart and Bane are expected to miss significant time.

Memphis has also been without Xavier Tillman for the last four games (knee) and Ziaire Williams for the last five (hand). A forward/center, Tillman was reportedly traded to the Boston Celtics in exchange for forward Lamar Stephens and two second-round draft picks, according to ESPN on Wednesday.

–Field Level Media

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