Preview: Hornets at Bulls

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[January 02, 2017]  There might not be a hotter seat in the NBA right now than the one under Chicago Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg, who is overseeing a team that dropped eight of its last 11 games. Hoiberg will try to quiet the noise and get 2017 started off strong when the Bulls host the Charlotte Hornets on Monday.

Hoiberg tried to shake up the team in the last two games by sitting veteran point guard Rajon Rondo in favor of Michael Carter-Williams, beginning in the second half of Friday's 111-101 loss at Indiana and continuing throughout Saturday's 116-96 setback against the Milwaukee Bucks at home. Rondo, who met with Hoiberg prior to Saturday's game, was due to meet with general manager Gar Forman after the contest to discuss his role with the team. The Hornets have no trouble identifying their point guard of the present and future in Kemba Walker, who did everything he could with 37 points on Saturday but could not quite push his team past the Cleveland Cavaliers. Charlotte won five of six prior to Saturday's setback, including a 103-91 home win over the Bulls in which Walker scored 20 points and backcourt mate Nicolas Batum recorded a triple-double.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBATV, FSN Southeast (Charlotte), CSN Chicago

ABOUT THE HORNETS (19-15): Charlotte is at its best when it's playing strong team defense, and it held the Bulls to 39.6 percent from the floor in the Dec. 23 meeting. That defense had more trouble with the Cavaliers on Saturday, yielding 50.6 percent from the field and 71 first-half points, and enters the New Year tied for eighth in the NBA in defensive field-goal percentage at 44.6. Offensively, Batum followed up his triple-double against the Bulls with four more solid outings and is averaging 18.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 7.8 assists in the last five contests.

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 ABOUT THE BULLS (16-18): Hoiberg said it was a basketball decision to bench Rondo, who is averaging 7.2 points - his lowest mark since his 2006-07 rookie campaign - on a career-worst 36.9 percent shooting. "It's been a tough season for us right now," Rondo told reporters. "It's been ups and downs. Certain buttons are being pushed. The Bulls are trying to figure things out." Carter-Williams struggled to four points on 1-of-6 shooting with four assists and a pair of turnovers in Saturday's loss and is shooting 23.8 percent from the field in seven games this season.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Hornets SG Marco Belinelli (ankle) sat out the last four games and is questionable for Monday.

2. Chicago PF Taj Gibson is 7-of-24 from the field in the last two contests.

3. Charlotte took the last three in the series.

PREDICTION: Hornets 109, Bulls 103

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