Friday night’s 123-110 win for the Bulls over the Charlotte Hornets was good stuff. Charlotte isn’t terrible, it was in their building (for what that’s worth this no-fans season), they were well-rested and they had an unblemished injury report.
If the Bulls are to challenge the play-in portion of the Eastern Conference playoffs, this was a good benchmark and they looked to be the outright better team.
I don’t know how John Paxson even shows himself to anyone in this franchise. Maybe he’s not?
Bulls had one three-game winning streak under Jim Boylen in 123 games. Billy Donovan has his first in only 15 games.— Ricky O'Donnell (@SBN_Ricky) January 23, 2021
Speaking of their former coach, the Bulls nearly hit The Boylen Constant with 33 assists against the Hornets.
Just a very well-balanced offense with a deep rotation. Wendell Carter was out and Billy Donovan still rolled out 10 players playing at least 11 minutes, with Tomas Satoransky bringing up the rear in his return from a long absence due to Covid. And even he had 4 assists in that time, as the veteran-laden bench once again came through with extremely productive minutes. Porter was +15, Temple +15 with 3 steals and 3 threes, and Thad Young a +19 in 25 minutes with 6 assists.
Young was once again out there down the stretch alongside Temple and starters LaVine/White/Markkanen, and as a recent trend they played great and pulled away:
The passing down the stretch of tonight's Bulls game was outstanding.— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) January 23, 2021
In previous years, the crunch time offense was basically give it to LaVine and get out of his way. Predictable, easy to guard, not very effective. Under Donovan, they are so much more dynamic. pic.twitter.com/Bh2ZQentWH
LaVine once again looked more under control and willing to facilitate. Overall in the game he had 9 assists to 2 turnovers.
No question LaVine is taking a step. It's not just scoring, there's a patience and ability to read defenses that has grown too. Has the option to come off Gafford but Graham is giving him middle drive. Sees Biyombo at the nail, sees he doesn't commit and drives for the score. pic.twitter.com/RkDtNcFSpV— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) January 23, 2021
It was a fun watch too: fast-paced and pretty spastic, the Hornets were flying all over the place defensively but it wasn’t productive enough. And offensively they looked to be doing the same, with a lot of quick-trigger three point attempts (going 7-32, their bench had zero makes from distance while the Bulls bench made six) and boffed themselves into 20 turnovers. Between that and the offensive rebound domination by the Bulls (getting over 31% of their available misses) it meant the Bulls had 10 more field goal attempts.
And it was noticeable that the Bulls had a lot of Lauri Markkanen at center and they didn’t suffer much defensively, or rebounding for that matter even though Lauri himself had just two. But he did score 23 points, and look at this shot chart: Boylen would say this is a good profile! (and the dunks went in the hoop)
Even with Cody Zeller returning the Charlotte frontcourt is not where they get production, so it was noticeable that the Bulls were able to suffer body blows but mostly handle the perimeter-focused attack of Graham (hot first half then a dud second), Rozier (opposite), and Hayward (by far Charlotte’s best performer with 34 points). LaMelo Ball was fun to watch but only played 17 minutes and was a -15.
This entire LaMelo sequence pic.twitter.com/WSDkoMET6W— Ricky O'Donnell (@SBN_Ricky) January 23, 2021
He only had a little over a minute played in the 2nd half and had two turnovers.
Meanwhile, Coby White also had his best outing in a while, 18 points on 15 shots with 8 assists to 2 TOs.
So, yeah, unequivocally good stuff! There are far more equivocations to be had tonight. It’s a back-to-back, against the Lakers, but LeBron is questionable. But a win would be a win, as even this early you can kinda squint and see the Bulls actually trying to be competitive (so much for Karnisovas’s preseason ineffectual address). This win put Charlotte in 12th and the Bulls at 9th in the conference, near other surprise non-dormats like the Cavs and Knicks. Those teams have better records but the Bulls look the better team than both.