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Bulls vs. Hornets Recap: Taj Gibson and Robin Lopez Get Ejected as Chicago Falls to Charlotte 103-91

The Bulls fell under .500 after yet another terrible shooting performance and yet another horrendous fourth quarter.

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Charlotte Hornets Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Chalk up another December loss for this sputtering Bulls team, as Chicago fell behind to the Charlotte Hornets in the first half tonight and never managed to recover to the tune of a 103-91 loss. The offense looked bad, the defense looked bad, the team’s composure went out the window in the final quarter, and the Bulls couldn’t seem to get a call from the officials all night. Put that all together and you have a masterful recipe for an ugly road loss.

By the Bulls’ competitive standards as of late, the first quarter actually wasn’t too bad. Although Chicago fell behind early on, they were able to keep the lead to a one or two possession game for much of the opening minutes before finally capturing a lead of their own with about three and a half minutes remaining. After a mini 6-0 run helped the Bulls go up by five, Nikola Mirotic checked into the game and promptly scored five points himself on a layup and a three from twenty eight feet! As a result, the Bulls ended the first quarter up 26-22 over the Hornets.

Then the second quarter happened, and my goodness, it was terrible. How terrible? The Bulls gave up a 21-4 run that lasted seven and a half minutes, and they didn’t register a field goal for about seven minutes of that run. The offense went completely flat, dropping a full 10% points as a unit from what they shot in the first quarter (45 to 35%). Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade kept taking very bad shots, and Der McDougmott scored a whopping two points after missing all of his field goal attempts in fifteen minutes. Wade bailed out the Bulls with two late makes on isolation pull ups, but the Bulls still concluded the first half down 48-40.

Can you guess what happened next? The Bulls ripped off a 9-0 run during the opening minutes of the second half. Can you guess what happened next?!?!? The Hornets went on an 8-2 run that saw the Bulls fail to score for the next four minutes other than on a Rajon Rondo layup. Thankfully, Jimmy Butler started to heat up a bit and managed to shoot 5-8 for the quarter after going only 3-8 in the first half. McDermott also canned a pair of 25+ foot threes back-to-back after failing to register a single made basket in the first half. Unfortunately, the Bulls got beat badly via second chance points and pick & roll opportunities on the other end during the third, and although they poured in 27 points for the quarter, the Hornets managed to match that total to end the quarter ahead 75-68.

Although the theme of both teams equaling each other’s offensive outputs continued for the initial minutes of the fourth quarter, the Bulls (led by Cristiano Felicio) commited a plethora of fouls that put the Hornets in the bonus with over seven minutes remaining. That theme would continue for the remainder of the game, as the Bulls just couldn’t seem to get any necessary stops to go on a run to close the gap. It’s worth noting that even after his hot third quarter, for some reason Jimmy Butler did not attempt a single shot until there were under two minutes remaining in the fourth. Of course, Butler hit all three of his attempts from there on out, making one wonder why the Bulls’ best player wasn’t more involved for the final twelve minutes of the game.

It’s also worth noting that Taj Gibson and Robin Lopez both got ejected after combining for three technical fouls and a flagrant II foul in the fourth quarter. Although their gripes with the officiating may have somewhat been justified (Charlotte was called for only eight fouls for the entire game), Lopez in particular exhibited a total lack of composure down the stretch that might see him get suspended. It made what was already shaping up to be an ugly loss far more horrendous, and the final score ended up being 103-91 in favor of the Hornets.

Though Jimmy Butler rallied in the second half to finish with a nice 26 points on 11-19 shooting, the rest of the Bulls simply weren’t up to par tonight. Wade and Rondo combined to shoot an abhorrent 8-26 from the field, and although McDermott had a much better offensive second half, it still couldn’t outshine his abysmal opening stretch. He also played a whopping 33 minutes, think of that what you will. Nikola Mirotic managed to drop a double-double off the bench in only 19 minutes, but he also shot a ghastly 1-7 from three and 5-16 overall.

For the Hornets, Nicolas Batum came out of nowhere to drop a triple-double and lead the Hornets in scoring before Kemba Walker tied his 20-point total with a garbage-time layup on their final possession. Six different players across Charlotte’s roster recorded blocks tonight, including Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Roy Hibbert recording four each. The Hornets also should eighteen more freethrows than the Bulls did tonight, with the discrepency at a massive 28-10 spread.

I can’t say I expected the Bulls to win this game (trips to Charlotte for them traditionally aren’t very fruitful), but for them to sputter and ultimately crash at the end in the fashion they did is quite unencouraging. They will have to pick themselves up quickly, however, as the world will be watching them take on the Spurs in San Antonio on Christmas Sunday. If Robin Lopez winds up being suspended for that game, it will make what was already a difficult contest on paper far more challenging.