So, the Bulls made a late decision to sit their third-leading
scorer. The problem was, the Bulls already were without guard Jimmy
Butler, their leading scorer, who was back in Chicago getting
treatment on a sprained left knee suffered Friday.
Without the two key Bulls, the Hornets jumped to a fast start and
cruised to a 108-91 victory over Chicago behind the strength of
guard Kemba Walker's 30 points, seven rebounds and eight assists.
Walker (5,659 points) passed Glen Rice (5,651 points) to move into
fourth on the Hornets' all-time scoring list.
Hornets guard Nicolas Batum added 19 points, 13 rebounds and eight
assists, and forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had 20 points and seven
rebounds as Charlotte (26-26) climbed to .500 for the first time
since Jan. 4, when a seven-game losing streak plunged them to a
"Obviously, they were a little shorthanded," Charlotte coach Steve
Still, the Hornets used the absence of Rose and Butler's combined
38.3 points per game to their advantage quickly.
Charlotte had its highest-scoring first quarter of the season in
seizing an early 38-20 lead. The Hornets were led by
Kidd-Gilchrist's 10 points, and center Spencer Hawes' seven points
in the first period.
"We lost the game in the first quarter," Hoiberg said.
Just as difficult to overcome, however, was the loss of Rose before
the game even began. It was the seventh game Rose has missed this
season (the Bulls are 5-2 in that span), but the first one to what
he attributed to "body soreness."
"It's our fifth game in seven nights, Derrick just came off a
back-to-back," Hoiberg said. "He's playing really well, we feel
right now, with pace. It's just one of those things. We made that
Forward Pau Gasol led Chicago (27-24) with 22 points, 10 rebounds
and seven assists.
But without two of the top three Bulls scorers, the Hornets lead
grew to as large as 25 points late in the third quarter.
The Bulls never led and have lost five of their last six games.
The closest the Bulls would get in the fourth quarter was 93-80 with
6:09 remaining after they scored eight straight points to start the
Clifford still found reason for concern with his Hornets, citing a
lack of energy from the second unit that led to a second quarter in
which Charlotte made just 25 percent (5 of 20) of its field goal
attempts. But the Hornets' lead remained intact because Chicago made
just 28 percent (7 of 25) of its attempts that quarter, too.
[to top of second column]
"Our play was spotty," Clifford said. "But I thought our starters
played really well to start the game and the third quarter, and
again to finish it. We had stretches where we weren't as good. We've
got guys obviously who are tired, but we've got to find a way to
play through that one more time before we get to the break."
The Hornets led the game start to finish, but were happiest for what
the win did to their overall record.
"Feels good to be back at .500," Walker said. "Now, we've got a
chance to try to get back over .500."
NOTES: Bulls SG Jimmy Butler's injured left knee is "feeling a lot
better," according to Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg, though Hoiberg is
uncertain of a timeframe for Butler's return from the sprain
suffered Friday against Denver. Butler remained in Chicago to
receive treatment on his knee. ... Hoiberg said no single player
will replace all of what Butler does, though G E'Twaun Moore started
in his place again. "Just kind of by committee," Hoiberg said.
"Especially when Jimmy did so many things for this team. (He's the)
best perimeter defender, one of the best perimeter defenders in the
league. He's a go-to player late in games, makes clutch plays. So
it's tough. You can't replace it just with one guy." ... Charlotte
coach Steve Clifford said he hopes injured C Al Jefferson will
return after the All-Star break, and will determine what Jefferson
can manage in practices following the break. "We'll have a couple
days of practice where we'll play a lot of contact, up and down the
floor, and then we can get a better gauge for where he's at,"
Clifford said. Jefferson had surgery on his right knee Dec. 31 to
repair a torn meniscus. ... Hornets F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has
played five games since missing 46 with a torn labrum in his right
shoulder. His first three games, he averaged 14.3 points and 10.7
rebounds. His last two games, he's averaged 9.0 points and 1.5
rebounds. "I think he hit the wall a little bit," Clifford admitted.
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