The Bulls haven’t had much success on national television this season, but they got another opportunity on the road against a slumping Hornets team playing without Gordon Hayward on Wednesday night. After a sluggish start, the Bulls took control of the game with a 19-2 run in the second quarter and never looked back in a 121-109 victory to head into the trade deadline with a 34-21 record.
Some sloppy turnovers and lazy defense in the first quarter got the visitors in an early eight-point hole, and then after coming back, some bad Bulls bench minutes had the Hornets up 34-28 early in the second quarter. Chicago then outscored Charlotte 30-11 heading into halftime, with that 19-2 run sprinkled in there. DeMar DeRozan buried a pair of triples to close the 19-2 surge and then ended the half with a bucket as the Bulls grabbed a 58-45 lead.
That double-digit lead was maintained for a good chunk of the third quarter before an ugly sequence, which featured a hilariously bad Troy Brown Jr. missed layup, resulted in a quick 8-0 Hornets run to chop a 16-point lead in half. But then Malcolm Hill helped stem the tide, hitting a pair of big triples to push the lead back out. DeRozan hit his third 3 of the game not long after, and Zach LaVine buried an effortless trey to close the quarter with an 89-76 advantage:
The Bulls then cruised in the fourth quarter, pushing the lead to as high as 21. The Hornets made one last 10-0 push to make it an 11-point game with around three minutes left, but a Brown 3-pointer effectively shut the door.
Chicago’s offense scorched the nets against the pitiful Hornets defense in this game, shooting 56.1% from the field and 16-of-33 from 3-point range. The Big 3 of DeRozan, LaVine and Nikola Vucevic all performed at a high level, with DDR going for a game-high 36 points on 13-of-19 from the field, 3-of-4 from 3-point land and 7-of-10 from the foul line. DeRozan has been on a major heater of late, scoring easily from all over the court.
LaVine chipped in 27 points on five triples while grabbing seven boards and handing out five assists in 40 minutes. There was a point where it looked like he was grabbing his back, and playing him 40 minutes in a game that wasn’t all that close for much of it isn’t ideal. But Billy Donovan clearly wasn’t messing around with this game and rightfully doesn’t trust his bench right now with all the injuries. Outside of Brown’s 28 minutes as a reserve, no other Bulls bench player played more than 10 minutes. Matt Thomas didn’t play at all in the second half after four minutes in the first.
Vucevic had a monster game with 18 points on 9-of-13 shooting (zero 3-point attempts) to go along with 15 boards, eight dimes and three blocks. Vooch was active early and often, though he did get whacked in the face in the fourth quarter on a Kelly Oubre Jr. dunk. Hopefully this isn’t an Ayo Dosunmu situation where he winds up with a concussion after the fact.
Coby White got the start in the place of the injured Dosunmu and delivered a respectable 15/3/3 line on 6-of-14 shooting and 3-of-10 from 3-point land. While LaMelo Ball had a huge game with 33/9/5/4, White competed hard defensively and had a few notable stops on that end of the court.
Brown had a few extremely notable gaffes, but he bounced back to have one of his better stat-stuffing games of the season, going for 8/4/4/2 in his 28 minutes off the bench and recording a plus-17. All the other bench players were in the negative.
I would still prefer an upgrade over Brown, though, and we’ll see what the front office has in store for this trade deadline. This was a nice win for the Bulls on the road, but it came against a Hornets team that looks just awful (horrible defense, tons of ugly 3s) and we know there are some holes to fix given the injuries. The good news is the upcoming schedule heading into the All-Star break is rather soft, so there’s an opportunity to go on a run here.
The Bulls host the Timberwolves at home on Friday after the deadline.