As for the playoff push, well, that hit another speed bump as the Grizzlies posted a 98-91 victory, the Bulls’ sixth loss in seven games. And the Bulls can only hope they have Dwyane Wade healthy moving forward.
Wade exited with 8 minutes, 35 seconds remaining after getting tangled up with Zach Randolph on a rebound and spraining his right elbow. He wore a sling afterward and will undergo an MRI exam Thursday morning.
“My concern level is there are only 14 games left, and I’ve never had this injury. So I can’t say two days, two weeks. I don’t know,” said Wade, who added he “heard a couple pops.”
“I know Jimmy (Butler) had something similar to this before — that’s what they told me — so I talked to him and I don’t like what he has to say about this. I don’t know how long this is going to take to get better.”
Marc Gasol scored 11 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter to boost the Grizzlies, who also received 27 points, nine rebounds and seven assists from Mike Conley.
Rajon Rondo’s 17 points and eight assists led the Bulls. Butler failed to pick up the scoring slack created by Wade’s exit, scoring one of his 14 points in the final period and shooting 4-for-16 with seven rebounds.
Even if Cameron Payne hadn’t sat with general soreness in the right foot he has fractured twice and had surgery on once, signs pointed to Hoiberg dropping him from the rotation.
“Obviously, consistency with the rotation is something we’re going to strive for the rest of the season,” Hoiberg said. “There could be some circumstances that get a couple guys in from time to time. But the plan is to tighten things up here in these last 14 (games) and hopefully make a push.”
Rondo, who played well in his second straight start, welcomed the move.
“It definitely helps with chemistry,” he said. “Certain guys’ tendencies, if I make a certain play going right, I know where I can find Niko (Mirotic) or D-Wade cutting to the rim.”
The Bulls used 10 players Wednesday, with Paul Zipser making only a brief appearance when Mirotic drew two first-half fouls. After not playing by coach’s decision last game, Michael Carter-Williams received the backup point guard minutes over Jerian Grant.
Mirotic continued his back-from-the-dead routine with 14 points, including two tying 3-pointers late. He has scored 38 points in the last two games after not playing by coach’s decision the previous three, including one inactive.
As for Payne, he downplayed his foot issues and on-court struggles.
“They’ve got a big ol’ screw in it. I’m not worried about it,” Payne said of his foot, adding that he’s day to day. “I’ve had a lot of turnovers, which I’ve got to clean up. But I feel like it’s just getting used to playing with the guys I’m playing with. I’ll definitely play better.”
Payne also addressed his shot-heavy minutes after the Bulls pegged him as a pure point guard.
“I’m just trying to flow with the offense,” he said. “It’s not just about putting up shots for me, but I’m not going to pass up an open shot at all. Because I feel like that would hurt the offense.”
Wednesday night, Wade and the Bulls’ playoff chances suffered.
“They were the aggressors,” Wade said. “We lost a lot of rebounds after playing good defense, especially in the second half.”