The Bulls had their work cut out for them playing on the second night of a back-to-back following a double-overtime marathon defeat against Dallas. Luckily, the Hornets are bad, and the Bulls withstood all of their rallies to pull out a hard-fought 102-95 victory. This was Charlotte's 10th straight loss.
The scoring was fast and furious to start, but things appeared to take a turn for the worst when Joakim Noah rolled the same ankle he rolled last night. Like last night, Noah writhed on the ground in pain for a while before getting up and taking his free throws. And also like last night, the apparent injury wasn't bad enough to keep him out of the game.
Noah looked to be laboring getting up and down the floor in the immediate aftermath of the injury, but he was still productive on one leg. In 14 first-half minutes which included a trip to the locker room in between, the big man had nine points, six rebounds and five assists.
The Hornets had an early four-point lead when the Bulls caught fire from three, with Mike Dunleavy knocking down two and Derrick Rose making it three in a row. Chicago hit 5-of-6 three-pointers to start the game, but they soon cooled off, missing the last six attempts of the half.
The second quarter was a whole lot of bad, especially by the Hornets' second unit. Unlike last night where J.J. Barea and Devin Harris torched Chicago, Charlotte's backup guard duo of Brian Roberts and P.J. Hairston couldn't buy a bucket. It didn't help that they (and others) were firing up a ton of bad shots, and the Bulls threatened to pull away.
But then it was the Bulls' turn to struggle, and an offensive drought allowed the Hornets to get back into the game. In the midst of this run was Cody Zeller murdering Pau Gasol:
But Gasol came back from the dead to get Chicago's offense back on track to close out the half.
The Bulls once again appeared on the verge of blowing out the Hornets at the start of the second half, with Rose coming out of his slumber to knock down a three, make a nifty pass to Jimmy Butler for a three and knock down a couple buckets going to the basket. Rose scored eight points in the first three minutes of the half to open up a 13-point margin, but Chicago let go of the rope and Charlotte again made a charge back into the game.
Kemba Walker played the savior for the Hornets in the third quarter, pouring in 17 points and breaking Nikola Mirotic's ankles. Like, it was really bad:
The Hornets came all the way back to take a lead, and they had a one-point lead at the outset of the fourth quarter. But that didn't last long thanks to the Three Stooges known as Roberts, Hairston and Lance Stephenson. While those three guys were screwing up, the Bulls were executing well again, with Mirotic getting revenge with some excellent play.
Charlotte never really went away, but Kirk Hinrich helped atone for his boneheaded gaffe against the Mavs with two clutch threes down the stretch off sweet Rose finds. Hinrich has shot the three really well for much of the season, and I hereby petition him to only shoot open threes from now on. (Although Kirk had a nice sweeping hook earlier in the game.)
Nobody really stood out for the Bulls, as they just got a lot of solid performances. Gasol had 19 points and 15 rebounds, and while it took him 19 shots to get those points, I'll cut the guy some slack considering his 50-minute game last night. Noah finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, while Mirotic had 11 points and 12 rebounds. So that means all three bigs had double-doubles.
Rose and Butler both had 15 points and five assists. Rose showed flashes of his greatness and continues to display improved vision, although the bad threes continue to be an issue. But the most important thing is that Rose successfully made it through a back-to-back, and that's huge.
Butler started slow, but he bounced back nicely after a rough start to the game and played his customary 39 minutes. Hinrich was the sixth Bull in double figures with 12 points off the bench.
This one wasn't pretty at times, but I didn't expect it to be after last night. The Bulls really helped themselves by going 12-of-28 from three, and they were certainly helped out by some idiocy from Charlotte. But I'm not complaining.