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Kris Dunn shines and Lauri Markkanen stands tall (and other Bulls/Hornets takeaways)

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Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen made big plays when needed to guide Chicago to victory over Charlotte

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Chicago Bulls Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

In a season such as this one for the Chicago Bulls, there are not going to be a lot of bright spots. So when a young player shines, it’s important to note how well he played. That was the case for Kris Dunn and his performance against the Charlotte Hornets. He played a vital role in Chicago’s 123-120 win and helped drop the Hornets to their sixth straight loss.

It was a career night for Dunn, who scored 22 points and had 7 assists coming off the bench. In a game where Jerian Grant played decently but not the greatest, this was a big step for Dunn in showing his potential value as a starter.

On offense, Dunn was causing problems for Charlotte coming off the pick and roll and being aggressive, as evident with his 16 shot attempts (he made 10 of them). Dunn’s spark in the 4th quarter not only kept Chicago in the game but it also allowed them to take the lead in crunch time.

The Bulls were putting Dunn in pick and roll situations offensively all night and this possession above was no different. Initially Robin Lopez was supposed to give a pick on the right but quickly re-adjusted along with Dunn and set a screen on Kemba Walker from the left. Dwight Howard, who was guarding Lopez on the switch, was sagging back on the switch. It forced one of two options for Dunn. The first one being one to take a three-pointer off the dribble or to attack the big man by driving to the paint. Dunn choose the second option and it worked out pretty well. Right when Dunn gets to Howard, he does a quick crossover and freezes him. The quick second of hesitation from Howard allows Dunn to move to this right and dart inside for a relatively easy layup.

Dunn had another impressive score at the rim when he drove baseline and was able to finish over both Howard and Walker. He also was able to show his playmaking abilities in crunch time. It happened on a play where Dunn was able to attack the paint and draw in defenders. With defenders collapsing in, Dunn made the smart move and kicked it out to Justin Holiday. The veteran received the ball, took a step in, and then stepped back to the three-point line and splashed a three-pointer.

(Speaking of Holiday: The veteran, who missed the last game in Oklahoma City, was the team’s leading scorer in this one, dropping 27 points on 10 of 16 shooting with 4 makes being from behind the arc. In a cast of young guns, the offensive contribution from Holiday can’t be understated. He does a lot to help Chicago remain afloat offensively, despite him shooting a lot more than is needed. He’s still figuring out his role on this team and for games like this one, it was good to see him put up another solid stat line.)

Defensively, Dunn was active, hounding Charlotte's ball handlers and came up with a couple of clutch steals.

Lauri Markkanen shows verticality

Kris Dunn left his imprint on this game, but the win took the help of another young gun along with a tad bit of luck.

This was all set up to be disaster for Chicago. Walker got a mountain of a screen from Howard, who stonewalled and took Dunn out of the play. That left Cristiano Felicio against Walker and we all knew what’s going to happen next. Instead of sagging back, Felicio decides to step up in order to prevent an easy jumper. However, instead of shooting, Walker puts the ball on the floor and drives right past him. At this point, it’s all green grass for the point guard as he heads toward the rim. While the PNR action with Walker and Howard is happening Lauri Markkanen is near the left of the three-point line guarding Frank Kaminsky. Right as Walker gets by Felicio, Markkanen does a fanatic job of sliding over and decides to contest him at the rim. This is the best part of the defensive sequence by Markkanen. Instead of making the lazy play of fouling Walker, Markkanen chooses to go straight up and doesn’t move. By doing this he forces Walker to move out of his way instead of drawing the foul. It throws the Hornets point guard move off just slightly and the ball rolls off the rim and Markkanen secures the clutch rebound. It was an all-round solid defensive play from Markkanen.

Despite wins not being the best outcome for many Bulls games this season, it was a pleasant surprise to see two young guys play well. Especially Dunn as he looks to find his spot as the starting point guard soon.

No minutes for Paul Zipser

Paul Zipser played 12.7 seconds in the first half and according to the official box score, it was registered as zero minutes. He’s officially fallen all the way to the bottom in terms of the depth chart. Fred Hoiberg chose Denzel Valentine to start at small forward, and then went with the duo of Quincy Pondexter and Antonio Blakeney instead of the German. Things are not going well for the second year man at all.