Chicago Bulls- Charlotte Hornets: Three Takeaways From A Surprise OT Victory

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 8: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 8: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist /

The Chicago Bulls won their fourth game of the season against the Hornets. Here are three takeaways from the game.

Three young guns shine in an OT win in Charlotte.

The much-ballyhooed return of Nikola Mirotic to in-game action served as a reminder that, with more healthy bodies available, the 15th-seeded Chicago Bulls can muster up the gumption and fortitude necessary to… beat MJ’s 13th-seeded Hornets in overtime. Inspirational stuff, you guys. Just in time for the holidays.

Charlotte, missing coach Steve Clifford to an undisclosed health issue, fell to 9-15 on the season, and Chicago ascended to a 4-20 record, still the worst in the NBA. Hornets center Dwight Howard had 25 points, 20 rebounds, six blocks, and one loss to commemorate his 32nd birthday.

Lauri Markkanen IS A BEAST

Chicago wouldn’t have even made it to overtime without the contributions of two young Bulls in particular. The first Bull we should talk about, of course, is rookie Lauri Markkanen. Two nights ago, Markkanen struggled to score just 11 points in a loss to Indiana, where he converted just five of 15 field goal attempts.

Markkanen had 24 points (on eight-of-15 shooting) and 12 rebounds. He went five-for-five from the free throw line and knocked in three of his five long range looks. Beyond the pure numbers, though, the kid knew what to do when it really mattered.

With 1:12 to go in regulation, Lauri Markkanen begin putting on a show.  Following a great Kris Dunn steal, Markkanen, somehow left wide open in transition at the top of the arc, handily knocked down a graceful triple to extend the Bulls’ lead to 104-100 over Dwight Howard and Co.

Justin Holiday’s lazy defense on Nicolas Batum led to an easy jumper for the Frenchman to narrow the lead. Markkanen slipped inside for a quick layup to create a multi-possession lead once again. Batum and Kemba Walker would grind their way to a tie to force the overtime, but they were plum out of steam by the time that rolled around.

Markkanen had another terrifically timed, silky-smooth triple in the OT period to really create some separation between the Hornets and his Bulls. Chicago went on to outscore Charlotte by a 13-5 margin in the period.

Kris Dunn and David Nwaba continue to intrigue

Dunn and Nwaba made some huge contributions on both ends of the floor. Nwaba was Chicago’s former starting small forward before he went down with a right ankle injury a month ago, and he proved why he deserves that honor again now.

He thoroughly outplayed the current starter, Denzel Valentine, logging 32 minutes to Valentine’s 25. Valentine has been a one-dimensional player, to this point. Nwaba, though he may lack the slow-footed Valentine’s three-point shot, compensates with physical defense and adept utility man work. Nwaba’s stat line last night reflects that: he had 11 points (on five-of-seven shooting), six rebounds and four assists.

Kris Dunn, meanwhile, absolutely stuffed the stat sheet. Although he did have an abysmal shooting night. The second-year guard made just eight of his 24 shot attempts, including, as usual, some inexcusable misses from the layup line at point-blank range.

Dunn had 20 points, 12 assists, six rebounds and three blocks. Dunn’s impressive wingspan intimidates his charges, especially an undersized one like Kemba Walker. Walker, too, had 20 points, but was clearly spooked. Nwaba and Dunn, as I’ve said before, have the potential to really be something. I also haven’t given up on Antonio Blakeney or Zach LaVine, either.

We should play the Hornets every night

In the Bulls’ first bout with Charlotte, on November 17th, Kris Dunn (22 points, seven assists, five rebounds) and Justin Holiday (27 points) led the victory charge, and Chicago netted one of their four wins. We dropped the Hornets like a bad habit, 123-120. Chicago would not win another game… until we played Charlotte again.

So, to recap: two of our four success stories this season, across 24 tries, came against Michael Jordan’s basketball team. Does this mean that our fifth and sixth wins of the season won’t arrive until rematches on February 27th and April 3rd?