After losing three of four games, the Bulls really needed to beat the Hornets at home in a battle of the Balls before heading to New York for road games against the Knicks and Nets. Chicago responded to the tough loss to the Heat with its best offensive performance of the season, exploding for a season high in points in a 133-119 victory.
Nikola Vucevic had his best game of the campaign after his brutal showing against the Heat, putting up a monster stat line of 30 points, 14 rebounds and five assists while shooting 12-of-19 from the field and an incredible 6-of-6 from 3-point range. It was a Vooch bucket off a nifty pass from Lonzo Ball that stopped the bleeding after the Hornets trimmed a 23-point third-quarter deficit to just four with 7:31 to play, and he was clearly pumped when his sixth and final triple of the night was the dagger. He tied his career high with those six 3-pointers and was a game-best plus-31.
Vucevic had it going from the start with nine first-quarter points. While the Hornets took advantage of his pick-and-roll defense early by finding P.J. Washington wide open for four 3-pointers in the first, the Bulls made adjustments and Vucevic picked up his defense while staying hot offensively. His two-way play was instrumental in Chicago building a 69-58 lead at halftime after things were tight all half, including a 3-pointer as time ran down. He continued to shine as the Bulls built their lead up to 23 in the third quarter.
The Bulls’ offense was in high gear basically all night outside of the stretch early in the fourth quarter when the Hornets went zone and momentarily turned the tide of the game. Chicago shot a red-hot 59.6% from the field and 14-of-30 from 3-point range. The ball was really popping all over the court as the Bulls racked up 35 assists (Jimbo would be proud!), with Lonzo leading the team with eight. All five Bulls starters had at least three assists, and five Bulls had at least five assists. The Hornets are a bad defensive team, but this game showed how dangerous Chicago can be when the ball is moving and all the starters get loose.
The Bulls did get stagnant and sloppy against that zone, so that’s something they will need to continue to work on, because opponents will surely continue to throw it at them. Getting Coby White consistently on track would be a big help, but he really struggled again in this game before finally scoring five big points to help push the lead back out again after nearly blowing it.
In addition to Vooch’s big game, DeMar DeRozan went off for 28 points on 12-of-20 shooting, with a handful of circus mid-range shots. DDR also had six assists, five rebounds and zero turnovers. Zach LaVine had a relatively quiet 25 points on 10-of-18 shooting to go along with six boards and five assists after being a game-time decision with an illness, with 12 of those points coming in the third quarter as Chicago built up the big lead. The Bulls shot 14-of-20 overall and 5-of-10 from 3 in the third.
In the battle of the Balls, both Lonzo and LaMelo had strong games. Lonzo scored 16 points and hit 4-of-5 from 3-point range to go along with those team-high eight assists. LaMelo didn’t shoot all that well with 18 points on 5-of-15 shooting, but he dazzled with his passing to the tune of 13 dimes. LaVar Ball was in the house and should be proud.
It wouldn’t be a Bulls game at this point without showing some love to Alex Caruso, who had another strong effort off the bench with 14 points and seven assists. Caruso scored 11 of those points in the second quarter as Chicago put up 39 in the frame.
The Bulls needed their offense to be in high gear, because the Hornets, particularly Terry Rozier, put together an impressive display of shotmaking for much of the night. Rozier went for a game-high 31 points on 11-of-17 shooting overall and 6-of-7 from 3-point range. Rozier had 14 points and hit all four of his 3-point attempts in the third quarter to help keep the game from truly getting way out of hand, and Gordon Hayward came alive in the fourth quarter with 14 of his 22 points as the Hornets made their charge. Charlotte shot 18-of-39 from 3-point range, with a number of them being of the tough variety after Washington’s easy looks early in the game.
Ultimately, the Bulls did their job in this one, and it was great to see the big response after the Hornets put them on their heels. This home team easily could have melted down entirely, but they executed down the stretch to secure a big win to move to 14-8 on the season. That puts them back in second in the Eastern Conference thanks to losses by the Heat and Wizards.
The Bulls now get two days off before another showdown against the Knicks on Thursday, this time at Madison Square Garden.