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Bulls vs. Hornets preseason recap: Bulls fade down the stretch in Charlotte

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There wasn't too much Hoiball in the Bulls tonight, who did most of their damage on the interior in the first half, then scored only 35 points in the second half to lose another one. It's just preseason, though this was also a game with no outright scrubbery to mess up the lineups.


Things started out pretty well with Joakim Noah looking spry with 6 points in the first 6 minutes, and he finished with his most active game of the season. In over 33 minutes, Noah was only 2-8 but got to the line a ton to finish with 12 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists. He even dunked on a break! The Bulls as a team were thriving in the first half behind their ability to hit the offensive glass and get to the line, behind Noah and Taj Gibson, who was on a minutes restriction and had the team's best game going 6-7 for 14 points and 9 boards.

The inside dominance was nice because they shot a mere 2-13 from three in the half, and even factoring in how well Charlotte shot the ball the Bulls still kept things even. In the third quarter their 3-point proficiency looked a bit better (mostly...entirely...because of Nikola Mirotic, who went 3-6, and 0-3 from two), and Bobby Portis had another impressive display of skills. It's easy to make fun of the  Hornets front line because of how they look, but it's also easy because of how they play. Hawes, Kaminsky, and Zeller were each pretty buffoonish in their brand of poor play, which helped the bigs look pretty decent (Gasol sat this one out).

But eventually the Bulls kind of fell apart. The FT battle completely flipped towards the other side, and Charlotte's bigs eventually were getting some key rebounds of their own. But the big difference was the guard play, as the 2-PG tandem of Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin gave the Bulls (who sport a 0.6-PG lineup most games) fits all night. Brooks was getting demolished, Hinrich couldn't stop fouling, Moore was merely ok defensively but didn't do enough on offense. Jimmy Butler kept his pretty pedestrian preseason going with a 8-19 shooting performance, while Walker+Lin combined to go 14-24 for 40 points. Even PJ Hairston got in on the fun going 4-5 for 11 unexpected points.

Fred Hoiberg tried some different combinations in this game, including a jumbo lineup with Niko-Taj-Noah, a Taj-in/4-out combination, some Taj-Portis (the latter whose defense needs a lot of work as well) combinations, and a closing lineup of Moore/Butler/Snell/McDermott/Noah, which was somewhat ok defensively but couldn't keep pace as the Hornets slowly crept away. They wound up shooting only 41.6% but it looked to be more of a function of their poor inside finishing versus anything the Bulls defense did.

The Hornets are 6-0 this preseason, which seems strange. The Bulls have another game tomorrow night, and I wouldn't be surprised if Noah sits that one and we have no more clarity on a bigs rotation than ever (or Jimmy for that matter, as he played over 37 minutes tonight). Also it doesn't look like there's going to be PG help anytime soon.