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Bulls vs. Hornets game preview

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How serious will things get on the third date for Hornets vs. Bulls this season?

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Hansbrough currently has a PER of 32.4. Apologies for starting with that, but I felt as if this needed to be addressed immediately.

Now, on to more important things. Tonight, the rest of the Charlotte Hornets will take on the Chicago Bulls at the United Center in what will be their third meeting not even a quarter of the way through the NBA season. The first meeting saw Charlotte obtain their first win of the season in a Bulls loss that sent many fans into an uproar given that the team allowed 130 points for the first time in five years (something that never happened under Tom Thibodeau). The teams would meet again less than two weeks later in a contest that would eventually go the way of the Bulls, albeit in the uninspiring fashion that fans have become used to seeing this season. While Joakim Noah had a great effort off the bench by posting a line of 3/18/6 in just 23 minutes, Derrick RoseNikola Mirotic, and Tony Snell all struggled mightily (although Rose did have 8 assists).

Traditionally, the Hornets have been not very good, and when you look at their roster there aren't any names in particular that jump off the page at you. In fact, after Al Jefferson (out tonight with a calf injury), the only other players on the roster that earn north of eight figures are Nicolas Batum and Kemba Walker. Yet, even after an 0-3 start to the season, this team has ground it's way to a 9-5 record over the last month since the initial walloping they put on the Bulls. Perhaps more impressive are that their losses in that stretch came against the Knicks (not so impressive), Bulls, Spurs, Cavs, and Warriors. Then again, looking at their schedule reveals that all but one of their wins during that stretch came against teams that aren't in the top half of their respective conference, so maybe they don't deserve much credit to begin with.

Explaining that bit about their schedule is important because it frames why the team metric numbers for the Hornets are so absurdly high right now. Currently, the only metric stats that the Hornets aren't in the top ten for are pace (98.3 possessions per game, 20th overall), rebounding rate (48.8%, tied for 20th overall), and barely defensive efficiency (100.4 points per hundred possessions, tied for 11th overall). Their rebounding rate is explained by their league-worst 18.9% offensive rebounding rate, which gets balanced out by their defensive rebounding rate of 79.3%, good for 3rd overall in the NBA. The numbers elsewhere are great, most notably with their league-best turnover ratio of 11.6% that would indicate a great ability to take care of the ball.

So all things considered, the Hornets are an extremely young team that's playing with a great deal of confidence (and without their best front court player), and that means you can expect a ton of threes from them tonight. A shy team doesn't follow up a victory over one team in which they took 23 attempts from 3-PT range with 33 attempts against the same team the next time out. You can expect the Hornets to pull the trigger from beyond the arc as many times as they possibly can this evening, but considering that they have shot 60.9% and 45.5% as a team from 3 in their recent performances against the Bulls, one would think that at some point they would come back down to Earth and shoot something closer to the 35.5% they average for the season. Therefore, if this game turns into the chucking contest (as it often does against a team that averages 26.9 attempts from 3 per game on the year, 6th overall), I would expect the Bulls to keep the Hornets' scoring in check. It will take a team effort all game given the subtle depth of 3 point shooters on this roster, but as long as Charlotte's two Jeremys can be kept from going a combined 13-18 and 4-5 from 3 again, victory should be more than obtainable for the Bulls.

The Hornets aren't bad by any stretch, but it's hard to argue that they haven't been propped up by an extremely soft stretch over the last month that has allowed their team numbers to jump off the page in the fashion that they do. That being said, they have already proven to the Bulls this season that they can be lethal when underestimated. This will also only be the Bulls' second game on a Saturday thus far this season, so hopefully they will avoid a sluggish start given their general absence of weekend play thus far this season (only one game on a Sunday as well). But given how fresh that 130 point beatdown still has to be in the all of the Bulls' heads, I would imagine that the team will continue their recent trend of smothering defense to the tune of a low scoring victory this evening (provided Charlotte doesn't collectively channel Stephen Curry's shooting ability for the third straight meeting).

Tip is at 8:00 ET. Mike Dunleavy is still out. Nikola Mirotic is a game-time decision and Kirk Hinrich will likely play barring any setbacks.