Like the Bulls, the Grizzlies use tough defense, especially on the interior with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, to take over games down the stretch. That's exactly what happened late in this one as the Grizzlies tightened things up and clamped down on Tom Thibodeau's offense in the waning minutes for an 85-77 win.
"They outplayed us," Noah said. "They're a tough team. Marc Gasol and Z-Bo are a handful down there. And then you put Tony Allen [in the mix]. I think Tony Allen was really the difference of the game. He just disrupted everything out there with his defense. ... They hit shots. We didn't."
The Bulls were only 2-for-13 from beyond the arc and that killed their ability to spread the floor. But in Thibodeau's mind, the turning point of the game wasn't defined by the lack of made shots. It was based on the fact the Grizzlies outrebounded the Bulls and made plays in the second half that Chicago wasn't able to respond to.
"Rebounding was the name of the game," Thibodeau said. "In the third quarter they had 30 points. The last five minutes of the third quarter was a disaster."
The Grizzlies did all the little things that the Bulls usually do to beat teams. They got the extra rebound, they made the extra defensive rotation, they knocked down a shot when they needed to have it. Noah and his teammates knew what to expect on Friday night, they just couldn't execute correctly. The attention to detail was crucial in this game and that's one of the reasons why Noah was so frustrated by his six-turnover performance. The mental mistakes cost the Bulls -- especially in the end.
"Like Thibs said before the game on the blackboards," Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. "It just comes down to whoever's going to blink first. It was all about who can take the most swings. It's a dogfight, who's going to blink? Unfortunately, we blinked first it seems like. They got to a lot of loose balls, but it was a real physical game."
Gibson knows that another one is on the horizon Sunday afternoon against the Miami Heat. It's that matchup that provided the Bulls with a little bit of solace as they headed out of the United Center on Friday night. They were mad with the way they played, but they didn't feel as if the world was coming to an end. They are still confident in the way they've been playing the past couple of weeks, and they are excited about the challenge of facing LeBron James & Co. They know the challenges against Miami are the same as always, the same as they were against the Grizzlies. It all comes down to knocking down shots and playing solid defense, and those were the two areas where the Bulls struggled when they needed them the most on Friday night.
"I don't think there's anything to talk about really," Noah said of another showdown against Miami. "Everybody knows what's up. Playing against the defending champs. Chicago Bulls against Miami Heat. It's always exciting."