December 19, 2014

It's been eight years since the Memphis Grizzlies and Chicago Bulls both missed the postseason, but that's the direction both former defensive-minded clubs could be headed.

Injuries have taken their toll on sinking Memphis, while similar setbacks have left Chicago's playoff hopes on life support.

The Grizzlies try for a home win over the Bulls on Tuesday night that they feel will help reverse their bad fortune while Chicago looks to continue its push to get back into playoff position.

Memphis, seeking a sixth straight playoff appearance, had a nine-game lead for a spot March 4. The loss of Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, Brandan Wright and P.J. Hairston have since caught up with the club, fifth in the West, during a six-game losing streak and 4-12 stretch.

"We can sit here and rah-rah and motivate and say what we need to do, but until we get it done on the court all the motivational speeches don't matter," veteran swingman Vince Carter said. "We just have to get over the hump. (Injuries are) not an excuse now."

The Grizzlies (41-36) allowed an average of 99.3 points in their first 61 games but have surrendered 107.6 over the last 16. They allowed host Orlando to shoot 47.8 percent and post a 28-8 advantage on fast-break points in their sixth straight loss, 119-107 on Sunday.

In the midst of its worst losing streak since a seven-game skid in November 2009, Memphis' once-comfortable lead has dwindled to three games over ninth-place Houston with five left. The club's advantage over sixth-place Portland is down to a half-game.

"We are playing for a playoff spot and to stay in the playoffs so we just have to figure it out," Carter said. "It (stinks) and there is a dark cloud over us right now but we can still see the light of day.

"It is still possible. We just have to win a couple of games and everything should feel a little better. We just have to stay the course."

The Bulls' situation is considerably more dire as they try to avoid missing the postseason for the first time since 2007-08. Chicago (39-38) is two games out of the final spot in the East.

Since a four-game losing streak put a serious dent in its postseason chances, Chicago has won three of four.

Jimmy Butler is certainly doing all he can, following up a 28-point, 17-rebound, 12-assist effort in a 94-90 home loss to eighth-place Detroit on Saturday with 25 points on 10-of-11 shooting in Sunday's 102-98 win at Milwaukee.

''They don't go by points for who's in the eighth seed. It's all about winning and losing,'' Butler said. ''If we continue to win, hopefully we'll find ourselves in the postseason."

Derrick Rose is questionable for this contest after missing the past two with an elbow injury, while Taj Gibson is doubtful after sitting out the last three with a broken rib.

Since surrendering an average of 107.4 points while losing 18 of 28, the Bulls have tightened up defensively by allowing 97 per game over their last four. They limited Memphis to 42.1 percent shooting in a 98-85 win in the first meeting Dec. 16.

Butler led the way with 24 points in that contest and has averaged 28.5 in his last two at FedExForum.

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