The streak is over! Finally, a nice final.
The Bulls Friday had to go overtime, but it was worth the extra work as the Bulls defeated the Charlotte Hornets to break a 10-game losing streak.
The Bulls are 4-20. Charlotte is 9-15. The last time the Bulls won before Friday was against Charlotte in the United Center last month.
The Bulls took control two minutes into the overtime with a Kris Dunn driving score and a Dunn pass to Lauri Markkanen for a three pointer. The Bulls then held on down the stretch this time with the Hornets making the mistakes.
Markkanen in maybe his best all around game of the season had 24 points and 12 rebounds. Dunn had 20 points, a career high 12 assists and six rebounds. Robin Lopez had 19 points. Justin Holiday had 17 and David Nwaba 11 points, six rebounds, four assists and three blocks.
Mirotic made his return to the lineup for the first time after his preseason altercation with Bobby Portis. Portis was assessed an eight-game suspension and returned Nov. 7. Mirotic sustained a concussion and facial fractures from the Portis punch. Mirotic returned to practice about a week later and eventually to scrimmaging, including with and against Portis, though the two have remained apart and not spoken. Portis apologized publicly and Mirotic said he accepted the apology during comments to media about a week ago. Frank Kaminsky and Cody Zeller were out injured for Charlotte. It was a shaky start for the Bulls, quick shots with little movement to fall behind 10-6 in the first six minutes. Then the Bulls got some energy with the substitution of Nwaba, who began to push the ball on breaks, one leading to a Mirotic three-point play. Mirotic entered with 3:31 in the first quarter and with Nwaba helped lead the Bulls to a 16-2 close to the first quarter that enabled the Bulls to lead 31-25 after one quarter. Holiday added a four-point play with a three. The Bulls again stumbled with the second unit to start the second quarter, missing their first five shots with a turnover. Charlotte, stumbling as well, lurched ahead 42-39. The Bulls got some aggressive interior moves from Lopez against Dwight Howard and then a sharp driving layup from Markkanen and a runout for a fastbreak score from Denzel Valentine that enabled the Bulls to keep the game tied at 52 at the half. Dunn lead the Bulls with 10 points and four assists while Kemba Walker had just four points. Walker had 47 against the Bulls last month in the United Center. The Bulls were just two of six on threes in the half, but they had 10 free throw attempts with more forward play. Markkanen had his best half in three weeks with nine points and seven rebounds.
Charlotte had a quick start to the second half with Walker getting a break on a three-point shot foul for a 7-2 start and 59-54 lead. Markkanen kept up his forceful play, especially on the defensive boards coming in to help against Howard. Markkanen then got a three-point shot foul and Lopez a fine roll pass from Dunn for a score and 65-61 Bulls lead. Charlotte answered in this tug of war game to go back ahead 68-65 midway through the third. Holiday responded with mid range shooting, at which he prospers compared with long range. But Howard with an unlikely long jumper at the buzzer gave Charlotte a 79-75 lead going into the fourth quarter.
There was a delay after three quarters due to a crack on the court. The Bulls then started the fourth with an 8-0 run behind Nwaba and Portis. Mirotic added his first three in his return and with a Nwaba back door dunk the Bulls led 95-90 with 5:38 left. But Walker had a three pointer and three-point play out of the timeout to give Charlotte back the lead. Back and forth the teams went with the Bulls hanging on to a 99-98 lead with three minutes remaining in the game. The Bulls got a 106-102 lead on a Markkanen three with under a minute left. But the Hornets tied it on free throws and Dunn missed at the buzzer to go into overtime.