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HORNETS VS. BULLS
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
February 12, 2011

In the Hornets final home game prior to the 2011 NBA All-Star break, theyll try to continue their uncanny success in Louisiana against Eastern Conference opponents. New Orleans enters Saturdays game with a sparkling 11-1 record at home against the East, though the Chicago Bulls present a greater challenge than the vast majority of opponents from that conference. The Hornets only have two such games remaining after Saturday, when they host Boston on March 19 and Indiana on April 3. A few of their most impressive victories during the first half of 2010-11 have come in the Crescent City vs. the East, such as an overtime triumph against Orlando and a dramatic early-season verdict over Miami.

Chicago entered the weekend in third place in the Eastern Conference, trailing only Boston and Miami at the top of the standings. Despite injury absences by two of their top three players (center Joakim Noah and forward Carlos Boozer), the Bulls have thrived amid a spectacular third pro season by point guard Derrick Rose. The Bulls have also been able to withstand Noahs and Boozers injuries due to increased roster depth. Chicago had one of the best 2010 offseasons of any NBA team; along with signing Boozer to a free-agent contract, the Bulls also acquired sharpshooter Kyle Korver, defensive-minded wing players Ronnie Brewer and Keith Bogans, veteran frontcourt role player Kurt Thomas and backup point guard C.J. Watson.

Under first-year head coach Tom Thibodeau, a longtime NBA assistant coach, Chicago has been one of the leagues premier defensive teams. The Hornets ability to generate offense will be tested against the Bulls on Saturday, in the first of two head-to-head matchups. New Orleans will travel to Chicago on March 7, the final stop of a five-game road trip for the Hornets that takes place during the peak of Mardi Gras.



INTRIGUING MATCH-UP


Point guard, Chris Paul vs. Derrick Rose
The individual matchups dont come much more exciting than this one, a battle of the two players who will start at point guard in the 2011 All-Star Game for their respective conferences next weekend. Its also a meeting between the 2006 Rookie of the Year and the player who captured the same award in 2009. Paul and the Hornets did a commendable job against Rose last season, limiting him to an average of 16.0 points on 36 percent shooting.



HORNETS.COM SCOUTING REPORT
A closer look at the Chicago Bulls:


Carlos Boozer


Kyle Korver

GUARDS
Derrick Rose has been one of the NBAs most feared point guards since Day 1 of his professional career in 2008-09, but hes now become even more dangerous offensively due to an improved perimeter shot. The 6-foot-3 point guard relied primarily on his elite quickness and athleticism to drive by defenders over his first two seasons, but has worked diligently on his three-point range. The University of Memphis product only attempted a total of 60 three-point shots in 2009-10, but through 50 games this season hed already made 78 treys in 214 tries from beyond the arc. As a result, hes entered the conversation as a viable MVP candidate.

Shooting guard Keith Bogans has been a starter in his first campaign with the Bulls, but he generally doesnt play half of games, averaging about 18 minutes a night. Bogans is known as a sturdy defender and can make open perimeter shots at the other end.

Ronnie Brewer often gets subbed into the game for Bogans at shooting guard. The former Arkansas Razorback is known as a defensive stopper. On offense, Brewer is more likely to score on fast-break finishes or slashes to the rim than on perimeter shots.

A first-year member of the Bulls, C.J. Watson played previously for the Golden State Warriors. The University of Tennessee product has delivered a few big offensive games against the Hornets in the past, including a 23-point outing for Golden State last season.

FORWARDS
One of several big-name free agents who changed addresses during the much-discussed summer of 2010, Carlos Boozer signed with the Bulls after several years of outstanding play for the Utah Jazz. The Hornets were probably pleased to see him leave the Western Conference, after Boozer had been one key reason behind Utahs incredible success vs. New Orleans. In four Jazz-Hornets games last season three of which were won by Utah Boozer averaged 15.8 points and 10.3 rebounds.

Another former Jazz player, reserve Kyle Korver has been one of the NBAs most accurate three-point shooters throughout his career. He set a league record for accuracy in 2009-10 when he made 53.6 percent of his three-point looks while playing for the Jazz.

Often cited as one of the NBAs most underrated players, small forward Luol Deng has relatively quietly been a significant reason behind Chicagos excellence in 2010-11. The former Duke University standout is a versatile performer, as the Bulls third-leading scorer, second-leading rebounder and one of their better defenders.

Second-year power forward Taj Gibson edged out the Hornets Marcus Thornton for the final spot on the 2009-10 NBA All-Rookie first team (Thornton was named to the second team). Like Deng, the 25-year-old Gibson contributes in a wide range of areas for the Bulls.

A popular fan favorite in Boston, free-agent pickup Brian Scalabrine has been sporadically used by Chicago, appearing in 14 of the teams first 50 games.

Second-year Wake Forest product James Johnson played more in his rookie season, making 65 appearances a year ago but only a dozen through 50 games.

CENTERS
Not expected back in the lineup until after the All-Star break, Joakim Noah has steadily become one of the NBAs best centers. He likely wouldve made the Eastern Conference All-Star squad this season were it not for the thumb injury that sidelined him in mid-December.

The signing of cagey 38-year-old big man Kurt Thomas did not draw much attention in July, but following the injury to Noah, Thomas has proven invaluable for the Bulls. The 16-year veteran of the NBA has appeared in 89 career playoff games, twice as many as any current Hornets player (Sasha Pavlovic has 42 postseason appearances). Thomas is a blue-collar worker who also has a reliable mid-range jump shot.

A native of Turkey, rookie Omer Asik primarily stays in the paint at both ends of the floor, supplying interior defense and rebounding.


Players the CHI/NOH want shooting free throws in a close game
BULLS HORNETS
Kyle Korver
C.J. Watson
Derrick Rose
Kurt Thomas
Luol Deng
87.8
80.9
79.3
76.3
76.2
Chris Paul
Jarrett Jack
David West
Marco Belinelli
Marcus Thornton
85.5
84.7
84.0
79.7
79.7
If the CHI/NOH need a three-pointer, their best options are
BULLS HORNETS
Kyle Korver
C.J. Watson
Keith Bogans
Luol Deng
Derrick Rose
41.1
35.8
35.0
32.4
31.8
Marco Belinelli
Marcus Thornton
Chris Paul
Sasha Pavlovic
Jarrett Jack
38.3
37.1
36.5
35.2
34.8
Career FT percentage (through Feb. 8) Career three-point percentage (through Feb. 8)




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