It was the rubber match for the season series between the Chicago Bulls and Charlotte Hornets on Monday night. A start for Rajon Rondo and an active Nikola Mirotic made it evident just how much the Bulls wanted the win, or how generally lost Fred Hoiberg is on how to coach this team.
As noted, the Bulls gave Rondo a start again, sending Jerian Grant to wherever it is they are sending him. The bench, the inactive, the DNP, the D-League – I have no idea. Rondo knocked down a 3-pointer right away so that was cool.
Bobby Portis continued his struggles. He bricked a wide-open 3-pointer and a minute or so later was blown by when “defending” Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, committing a foul on what would become a 3-point play.
Speaking of 3-pointers, the Bulls made a lot of them early on. Rondo started 3-for-3 from deep before missing one and Jimmy Butler knocked down his first attempt from behind the arc. Charlotte pushed to keep pace and did so thanks to porous defense from Dwyane Wade and friends. Wade did make up for it on the offensive end as he was having another strong first quarter of basketball. Chicago put up a lot of points, so did the Hornets. It was fun basketball to watch for the most part, very few turnovers in either direction.
Then the Bulls exploded. They knocked down 3-pointer after 3-pointer. In fact, they finished 8-for-13 from deep in just the first quarter, good for 61.5 percent. Denzel Valentine knocked down two, Butler had two, Rondo had three. It was 36-24, Chicago in control after the first quarter.
Oh, did I mention that Nikola Mirotic made it into the game during the first quarter? Strange days for the Bulls.
Nothing changed in the second quarter. Mirotic kept the fire flowing, knocking down even more 3-pointers. Chicago had 10 made 3s less than 15 minutes into the game. They only have seven games all season where they have made more than 10 3s before this Charlotte game.
Chicago assisted on 13 of their first 16 made field goals, but the fast roll started to slow down as Wade started jacking up shots early in the shot clock in the second quarter. He wasn’t making those shots like he did in the first quarter and it allowed the Hornets to creep closer on a 9-1 run. And then Valentine knocked down another 3. The Bulls got to 11 made 3s faster than any other game this season and only eclipsed 11 made 3s four times for all year. It was a great start.
Chicago when on an 11-0 to push the lead up big, before Kemba Walker finished the half strong to get his side a bit closer, though still well behind the Bulls. At halftime, it was 58-48 for our Bulls.
In the second half, Charlotte got rolling quickly while the Bulls looked like a different team. Stretching from late in the second quarter through the first three minutes of the second half, the Hornets were on a 17-4, which was an answer to Chicago’s 11-0, which was an answer to Charlotte’s 9-1. Lots of runs in this game, all of which amounted to a close game that was actually quite entertaining. But the Bulls were concerning because the pace of the first half was gone, though the passing was still there. However, they opened the half missing a lot of open looks that they knocked down in the first half.
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Remarkably, the Hornets came from 16 down to tie the game at 69-69 (insert Rob Gronkowski GIF here) and it was a close game for the new few minutes. Then that ended. Chicago went right back to work and used transition opportunities to make up for their suddenly ice cold long range shooting. When the quarter ended, the Bulls had maintained their 10-point lead. Chicago withstood the Charlotte assault, only needing to hold it together for 12 more minutes.
After starting 10-for-15 from deep, the Bulls only made two of their next 20 3-point attempts. It was their inside work that kept them well ahead of the Hornets.
Chicago managed to keep their lead intact, at least two scores ahead of the Hornets, down the stretch. Mirotic went from inactive to playing all of the minutes. The 3-point magic was gone, but they didn’t need it. They got a season best scoring night out of both Rondo and Mirotic, and managed to tie highest number of 3s they have made in a game all season at 15.
The game was close to the very end thanks to the unstoppable effort of Walker. In hilarious irony, it was an ugly, shot clock-beating Portis jumper that bounced all around the rim before rolling in that helped secure the Bulls position.
Butler came up with a huge, beautiful block on Jeremy Lamb with just over seven seconds left to lock in the win.
After a bunch of back and forth, Chicago finally got the win, snapping their ugly five-game losing streak. Of course, nothing that happened answered any questions or solidified any player rotations so who knows where they go from here.