The Bulls got a career best game from Kris Dunn and season best games from Justin Holiday and Denzel Valentine and survived a last layup attempt from Kemba Walker with strong defense from Lauri Markkanen to defeat the Charlotte Hornets 123-120. Markkanen made two free throws to close the scoring after forcing the Walker miss with three seconds left.
The Bulls broke a five-game losing streak to go to 3-10. The Hornets with their sixth consecutive loss fell to 5-9.
Dunn in a breakout game had a career high 22 points with seven assists, five rebounds and three steals. Holiday had 27 points and four of seven threes and Valentine had 18 points, six assists and five rebounds. Markkanen had 16 points and Jerian Grant had 10. Walker had 47 for Charlotte.
The Bulls shot a stunning 51.6 percent and were 17 of 34 on threes. They had nine steals with Holiday also contributing three. The winning points down the stretch came from Dunn with a driving layup and Valentine with a runner from the free throw line.
The Hornets were back to full strength with Nicolas Butum and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. And Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg was hopeful before the game when asked about the Rockets scoring 90 in a half Thursday. "I'd pay to get 90 in a game," Hoiberg said. The Bulls got as close in the half as they have all season with a 60-60 first half in which the Bulls were eight of 17 on threes and Holiday and Markkanen had 14 each. Holiday was back from missing a game with the birth of his child, but perhaps the big move was starting Denzel Valentine at small forward. The way the Bulls played with sharp ball movement and penetration with the starters suggests Valentine may have won that position. Paul Zipser did not play. Grant also was at his best still starting at point, at least on offense. He aggressively got into the lane and made passes for easy scores. The Bulls were scoring off multiple passes with Holiday going at the rim strong. Still, Charlotte held a 27-26 lead after one quarter with Walker scoring 10. Dunn had a spectacular start to the second quarter with back to back steals for scores, though the reserves fell into more isolation play and Charlotte took a 45-34 lead with a 16-2 run. Hoiberg got the starters back in and Holiday with a three and a driving dunk led a 16-1 run to take back the lead. The Bulls crept ahead by five on Markkanen’s third three of the half on a slick Valentine pass. The teams went into the second half tied at 60 as Walker had 22 and the Hornets shot 51 percent; the Bulls were at 49.
The Bulls staggered to start the second half, failing to score the first three minutes and falling behind 66-60. But the Bulls came out of a timeout with Holiday and Valentine threes to tie the game and basically traded scores and stops with Valentine continuing the ball movement from the point forward spot. But the Bulls continued to, inexplicably, lose Walker, who closed the quarter with a pair of threes for 14 third quarter points and 35 through three quarters. Charlotte led 92-83 after three. Bobby Portis got the Bulls started back with a pair of threes early in the fourth quarter and then Dunn picked it up in one stretch with three consecutive elbow jumpers as he led the Bulls on an 11-2 run for a 104-100 lead. Batum got back the tie and then Walker with three free throws on a Dunn foul and a jumper got the Hornets a 109-107 lead with three minutes left. The Bulls tied it on a Valentine three at 110 and took a 115-111 lead on a Holiday three with just over two minutes remaining as the Bulls took to intentionally fouling Dwight Howard.