Similar styles collide tonight in Chicago

The Memphis Grizzlies will be in the Windy City to face the Chicago Bulls tonight at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. Both of these teams have been two of the NBA’s best since the calendar flipped to 2014.

The Bulls are 22-9 since January 1, the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. The Grizzlies are 21-9 in 2014, the third-best mark in the Western Conference.

These two squads rely heavily on defense and the play of their centers.

Marc Gasol's return fuels Memphis

Grizzlies With and Without Marc Gasol
This Season

A big reason why the Grizzlies had to dig itself out of a hole was because they were without Marc Gasol for much of the first half of the season.

Gasol missed 23 straight games spanning Nov. 25 to Jan. 12 and the Grizzlies went just 10-13 over that stretch. With him this season they’ve posted a 24-13 record.

Also his impact on the defensive end has been felt. Opponents are averaging five points fewer per game when Gasol is in the lineup.

Joakim Noah the facilitator

Joakim Noah is currently leading the Bulls in total assists this season. The last time a center led his team in total assists for a season was David Robinson (1993-94).

Noah’s distribution has had a tremendous impact on the team’s offensive performance. When Noah sits, the Bulls score just 93.9 points per 100 possessions. For perspective the 76ers have a better offensive efficiency than that.

Quick Hitters

* Both of these teams are strong on the glass – the Bulls rank second in rebound percentage while the Grizzlies are sixth. Not surprisingly, the Grizzlies give up the fewest second-chance points this season (11.5) while the Bulls yield the second-fewest (11.6).

Most Assists Among Center This Season

* Noah is averaging a career-high 4.8 assists this season, the most among centers. Second-most among centers in assists per game is Gasol with 3.7.

* The Bulls were 14-18 when they traded Luol Deng to the Cavaliers but have gone 20-9 since.

* Tom Thibodeau has gone with Taj Gibson over Carlos Boozer in the fourth quarter this season. Dating back to Feb. 1, Boozer has played in just three fourth quarters for a total of 11 minutes.