The Chicago Bulls have had a roller coaster of a season. From having a full healthy team that looked like they could go deep in the playoffs to having a team that looked like they would be fighting for a playoff spot at the trade deadline to suddenly being a team that is looking better than a playoff team.
After missing the first 28 games of the season, Zach LaVine returned for the Bulls to help them beat the 76ers 109-105 on Monday. The Bulls started the season 0-28, but now they are on a three game winning streak. Monday’s win was their first without the help of Nikola Mirotic, who they traded to New Orleans for Omer Asik and Tony Allen. Both players were waived by Chicago, and the Pelicans sent them to the G-League. With the trade, it left Bobby Portis as the only starter from the Bulls’ opening day roster. The only two starters that remain are Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn, and Dunn is out for the season after suffering a torn ul
The Bulls (27-39) travel to Charlotte on Thursday to take on the Hornets (32-34), who have lost four games in a row and 11 of their last 15. Chicago is currently four games behind in last place in the Eastern Conference standings. Meanwhile, the Hornets, currently in eighth place, were looking to improve their playoff position.
All-Stars Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic return to the Bulls’ lineup, averaging 51.3 points per game. LaVine, who sat out because of COVID-19 safety protocols, played for the first time since the 15th quarter. April, while Vucevic missed the last two games with a sprained right abductor. Troy Brown Jr. was not as fortunate as his teammates, missing his ninth consecutive game with an ankle injury.
Vucevic led the Bulls with 29 points and 14 rebounds and shot 50% from the field and 71.4% from downtown. Chicago distanced themselves from the Hornets with a 50-36 edge in offense and a 61-54 lead on the boards. All five starters finished the game in double figures, and the Bulls recorded 33 assists on 46 field goals.
With tonight’s win, the Bulls are 4-2 in the last six meetings with Charlotte and have won the season series against the Hornets for the first time since 2012, when they were known as the Bobcats.
The visitors started the game quickly with a 20-9 lead. They also shared the ball effectively, scoring 14 goals with 11 assists. Patrick Williams made three of his four shots from the field and scored seven points. All five starters contributed statistics. For the first time since April 22, against the same Hornets, the Bulls scored 34 points in the first quarter and took a double-digit lead.
With four minutes left in the second quarter, Chicago was already ahead by 51 points, but Charlotte didn’t give up and launched a series of three-pointers. The Hornets finished the half with 54.5 percent beyond the arc, good for 46 of their 53 points.
The Bulls’ lead was cut to six points by a 20-11 run by Charlotte in the final two minutes. Still, Chicago returned to the locker room with a 59-53 victory after one of the best offensive halves of the year.
The Bulls continued their excellent ball movement and picked up where they left off in the first half. As LaVine continued to gain ground, Vucevic took control with his 43rd goal of the season midway through the third quarter. Double of the year. Chicago went on a 10-2 run at the end of the quarter, led by a shot from Thaddeus Young, to take a 22-point lead into the fourth period.
As an underdog, Charlotte was unable to offer any significant opposition and only got to 16 points. Coach Donovan took advantage of the routine to give LaVine a few more minutes to shake off the rust. He scored eight points in that quarter, bringing his point total per game to 13. The Bulls won by a score of 120-99.
The Bulls (27-39) host the Celtics (35-31) on Friday night, and fans return to the United Center for the first time this season. Kickoff is at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN, 670 The Score and WRTO for Spanish speakers. As always, you can check out the latest Bulls content, articles, podcasts and more on the Bulls On Tap site.
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