The Chicago Bulls (12-40) wrap up a three-game road trip with a stop in Charlotte to take on the Hornets for the third and final time this season. The two spilt the first pair of contests played way back in October, with each successfully defending their home floor.
Tonight's game is the second of a back-to-back set for Charlotte as they went up against Memphis last night here in the Queen City. As for the Bulls, they arrive rested and in a good spirits after thrashing the Miami Heat on Wednesday, 105-89. Bobby Portis led the charge off the bench, scoring 22 of his game-high 26 points in the second half. Wayne Selden Jr. also contributed 20 points along with eight assists. The victory snapped a four-game Chicago slide, and moved the Bulls' road record to 7-20.
The game also marked the 14th consecutive time Chicago reached the century mark, the franchise's longest such streak since the 1991-92 season.
Prior to last night against Memphis, the Hornets were 5-3 in their last eight games, and sported a 24-26 record on the season. However, they were also a very impressive 17-8 at home.
One of the best stories in the league this season has been the play of Hornets three-time All-Star Kemba Walker, who enters the weekend averaging 24.4 points, 5.6 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game. Earlier this season the fiery 6'1” veteran guard, who already is Charlotte's all-time scoring leader, put 60 points on the board against Philadelphia, and followed that with 43 more the next time out against Boston. Chicago's backcourt, and in particular starting point guard Kris Dunn, will need to get physical with Walker tonight, forcing him to work extra hard to find his shots if they're going to be able to knock him off stride. Walker loves to get into transition as well as pull up and shoot from deep. This year he's averaging 8.8 shots from behind the arc, and hitting 35.5%. He's also second in the NBA to James Harden (46) of the Houston Rockets in fourth quarter made treys (45).
Two other Charlotte snipers Chicago needs to pay close attention to behind the arc are starting two guard Jeremy Lamb (15.2 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.0 APG, 34.6% 3FG) and sophomore backup Malik Monk (10.2 PPG, 34.1% 3FG), who has also come up clutch late in games in posting 36 fourth quarter triples.
Overall, Charlotte ranks 18th in the league in both offense and defense. They're averaging 111.5 points per game while giving up 111.4.
In order to pull an upset the Bulls will need to overpower and out-execute Charlotte at both ends of the floor. Offensively Chicago must keep the ball on the move to get everyone involved and invested in the action. To that end they must show up with an aggressive mindset, and look to attack the rim at every opportunity.
As a team, it is also essential the Bulls assume command of both the offensive and defensive boards, and look to run out as often as possible to score easy baskets and deny Charlotte the chance to set up on defense. From top to bottom Chicago's roster is packed with speed and athleticism, and thus it is vital the Bulls regularly look to exploit their strengths.