Entering tonight’s game in Charlotte, the Chicago Bulls have backed themselves into a corner they may not be able to escape. Owners of a disappointing 36-40 record, the Bulls should be desperate to pick up a win against the Hornets and inch closer back to a .500 winning percentage and ultimately, the postseason.
It won’t come easy, however, as Charlotte has enjoyed playing the role of spoiler as of late. Firmly entrenched into the fourth draft lottery position, the Hornets can go all out on the court without fear of ruining their odds to select a top prospect in the draft. This has had a clear impact on the team’s mentality, as the Hornets have racked up three consecutive wins against quality teams entering tonight’s game and they’d love to keep the streak going against the Bulls.
The Bulls may be a better team on paper, but aren’t doing nearly as much to inspire confidence that they’ll play up to their full potential. Coming out of the gates hot after the All-Star Break, Chicago has since cooled down significantly, dropping three of their last five games.
There’s no beating around the bush any longer, the Chicago Bulls absolutely need to pick up a win on the road against the Charlotte Hornets tonight.
With just six games left on the schedule this season, tonight’s game against Charlotte is actually one of the most favorable matchups the Bulls will get from here on out. They’re also set to duel four teams with postseason aspirations in Milwaukee, Memphis, Atlanta, Dallas, as well as Detroit before it’s over. For that reason, picking up a win tonight is absolutely necessary if the Bulls still wish to salvage this season.
Two games behind both the Raptors and Hawks, a win tonight is far from guaranteed to pull the Bulls back into the conversation for the 8th seed. However, a loss tonight would be particularly damning and would resign Chicago to a worst-case scenario situation in which they’d have to play the Bucks even if they win the play-in tournament. With the Wizards still only two games behind the Bulls, we can’t forget that an ill-timed loss could still mean Chicago misses the play-in tournament altogether if they’re not careful.
Fortunately, Alex Caruso and Javonte Green could both be available to play tonight, each of whom has missed several games over the last two weeks. Ideally, their presence will bolster the rotation and allow Billy Donovan to bench some members of the roster who aren’t pulling their weight.
The Hornets, on the other hand, will be without some of their top talent as LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, and Caleb Martin are out with Gordon Hayward not expected to play. Down both Ball brothers, both the Bulls and Hornets have had a rough time filling in the holes and fielding a respectable roster.
2023 may not be the year either of these franchises achieve their long-term goals, but the Bulls cannot be worried about that right now. All that matters is that they win this game. This one game. Then on to the next. If Billy Donovan and Patrick Beverley can’t get everyone on board for a must-win game against the Charlotte Hornets, then the Bulls never stood much of a chance in the play-in tournament anyways, did they?