One thing that has been very inconsistent has been the play of the Chicago Bulls point guards. Whether it be Kris Dunn or Jerian Grant, Chicago hasn’t gotten any production from the guy bringing the ball up the court this season. Until tonight, that is.
Thanks to a career night from Dunn (22 points and 7 assists), the Bulls were able to withstand 47 points from Kemba Walker and the Charlotte Hornets to get their third win of the season.
It was a decent first quarter for the Bulls and not only because they scored more than seven points this time around. Chicago started out 3 of 4 from downtown and got out to a 17-15 lead. It was Denzel Valentine and Justin Holiday who led the charge in the first period. Holiday was his typical jump shooting self and led the team with 9 points int he first quarter. Getting the start instead of Kris Dunn this time, Valentine scored 5 early points and asserted himself into the game. He was being a playmaker and also knocked down a triple, two things which Valentine should try to be more consistent at. Charlotte relied on the play of their best player Kemba Walker and he responded, scoring 10 points in the quarter. The first was a back and forth affair with Charlotte leading by one, 27-26, at the end of it.
Chicago had a very impressive sequence to begin the second quarter and it was all thanks to Kris Dunn’s defense. Fred Hoiberg had his guards perform a full court press on Charlotte’s backcourt, which included rookie Malik Monk. Hounding Monk for the first two possessions, Dunn was able to pick Monk’s pocket both times and it led to easy layups. Holiday added a layup soon after to make it 6 easy points for the Bulls. Like in the first quarter, the Hornets kept battling and got some production from their bench. Chicago native Frank Kaminsky gave the Hornets a spark and took advantage of some poor defense by Cristiano Felicio. Meanwhile, Walker was still humming along offensively and was giving the Bulls fits. Behind the duo, Charlotte was able to stay barely ahead during the second quarter. With Holiday only scoring 5 points in the second, someone had to step up for Chicago. Enter Lauri Markkanen. The rookie was able to score some baskets near the end of the first half and took advantage of some not so smart defensive switching by Charlotte. At the end of the half the score was all tied at 60.
Walker led Charlotte and both teams in scoring with 22 points while Markkanen and Holiday led the Bulls with 14 each. It was a good offensive half for Chicago as they put up 60 points, something that took them a lot longer to do in the OKC game.
After having a very good first half, the third quarter belonged to Kemba Walker. The former UConn man scored 13 points in the third and led Charlotte to a 32 point quarter. Thanks to Walker’s efforts, the Hornets were able to lead by as much as 9 in the quarter. Chicago, however, wasn’t able to get much offensively from their impact guys. Markkanen failed to score and Holiday again came up with a five point quarter. Thankfully for them, Charlotte’s defense did a lot to help out the Bulls and allowed them to keep things close. But then Walker went on a mini run of his own, knocking down two triples in the process. It not only killed whatever momentum Chicago had at the time but also gave Charlotte a 92-83 lead heading into the fourth.
Down by nine entering the final frame of the game, Chicago needed someone to kickstart things. Luckily for them, it was two players instead of one. It was the duo of Bobby Portis and Dunn who led the charge. Chicago hit 6 of their first 10 field goals and stormed back to tie the game at 98 via a Dunn three-pointer off the pick and roll. With less than 7 minutes left and the score tied, we had a game on our hands. On the very next possession, Dunn again received a pick from Felicio and pulled up for a mid range jumper. It was nothing but nylon and gave Chicago the lead. This was an all out performance from the point guard who showed his offensive skills to compliment his tenacity on defense.
The two teams continued to battle and the game was tied at 107 with 3:30 left. Charlotte ended up taking the lead shortly after when Markkanen got switched on Walker. It was then a straight isolation play as Walker put the rookie on skates and stepped back for an easy baseline jumper. It was short lived as Valentine responded with a three-pointer. Dunn then had a pretty dribble drive move to give Chicago a 112-110 lead. Hoiberg decided to employ the “Hack a Dwight Howard” strategy and force Charlotte’s hand. It worked out ok with the big man hitting two out of four free throws. Dunn continued to make plays, this time finding Holiday who knocked down a three. Holiday scored on a breakaway dunk in the next possession and it looked all over.
Charlotte rallied, however, with Kemba Walker knocking down a three to bring it the score to 119-118. But again, just like he had the whole game, Dunn responded. Again he was able to get to the basket, this time via the baseline, and finished over both Walker and Howard. Walker responded with another crazy three-pointer. Chicago then had one of the worst late game possessions they have had and it ended up in a long two by Robin Lopez, which he missed.
Charlotte had the ball and it was all set up for a Hornets win. It seemed like it up until the final seconds. Walker got the ball with 10.5 seconds left, got a screen which took Dunn out. He then easily got by Felicio and it looked like a clear layup for the win. However Markkanen came over and contested just enough to alter Walker’s shot and the ball rolled off the rim. Markkanen grabbed the rebound and knocked down two free throws to seal the 123-120 win for Chicago. Although it wasn’t a great moment for the tank, it was good to see a career night from one of Chicago’s young guns.