Written By David Walters
The Charlotte Hornets (3-3) fought hard but ultimately came up short in a 96-101 loss to the Chicago Bulls (4-2) on Sunday night at the United Center.
Both teams started off the game hot as they raced out to a 28-35 score at the end of the first period. The Hornets shot well but couldn’t keep up with Chicago’s hot hands, in particular Kirk Hinrich, who had 10 points in the opening period. The Bulls carried that momentum into the second quarter, as they went on an 11-2 run to open the period. The Hornets fought back with a 19-7 run of their own to close out the first half, going into the locker room with a 51-57 deficit.
The Hornets got as close as four in the third quarter, but the Bulls reserves seemed to have an answer every time the Hornets would start to chip away at their lead. The Hornets entered the final period down 70-83, but got closer with the help of rookie P.J. Hairston, who pulled the Hornets closer in the fourth with a few threes and a pair of free throws. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had a big fourth quarter as he took advantage of a couple of three-point plays while going hard at the basket in transition. The Hornets were down 96-99 in the closing seconds when Gary Neal missed a long three-point attempt that would have tied the game, forcing the Hornets to intentionally foul.
The Bulls played well, but the glaring disparity in this game was both teams’ reserves. Chicago was able to get 56 points out of their bench unit while the Hornets offense seemed to stagnate whenever the reserves would come into the game, as Charlotte only managed to get 34 points from their backups. Surely the return of Gerald Henderson will boost the second units productivity, but injuries have held the Hornets back from being able to achieve on court chemistry, especially with the teams reserve unit.
The starting unit got a large share of the minutes and responded as all five scored in double figures for the Hornets. MKG had another strong outing and finished with 14 points, six rebounds and three assists and big Al Jefferson had a solid game for the Hornets with 12 points and eight rebounds. Hairston finished the game with 12 points while going 3-6 from long range.
Two Hornets newcomers had their best games of the preseason so far as Lance Stephenson returned after missing the team’s last game to score 14 points and forward Marvin Williams contributed 12 points and nine rebounds. Both players looked more comfortable in the Hornets system, an encouraging sign going forward.
The Bulls’ point guards carried the team, as Derrick Rose scored 17 points and reserve guard Hinrich was red hot from the field, leading the Bulls in scoring with 26 points on 11-14 shooting. Third string point guard Aaron Brooks also chipped in with 13 points and three assists and offseason free agent addition Pau Gasol looked strong with 15 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. Taj Gibson added eight points and 10 rebounds.
Henderson sat out again for the Hornets as he continues to nurse a hamstring injury and Noah Vonleh is still recovering from sports hernia surgery.
The Hornets will be back in action tomorrow night when they travel to Phillips Arena to face their division foe the Atlanta Hawks.
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Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)