Tonight, the Bulls and the Charlotte Hornets hook up for the third time this season, but the first in the Windy City. The teams spilt the opening couple of contests in Charlotte, with each decided by a single point.
The Hornets came out on top, 126-125, in the season opener for both squads back in late October. Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen posted a game-high 35 points and snagged 17 rebounds while Chicago first round pick Coby White notched 17 points and dished out seven assists in his NBA debut. However, Charlotte proved unconscious from downtown, knocking down a franchise-record 23 3-pointers, including seven from rookie PJ Washington (27 points). Backup point guard Devonte Graham was also a difference-maker for the Buzz with 23 points and eight assists off the bench, while veteran Marvin Williams added five 3s and 17 points, overall.
Washington, Graham and Williams were a combined 18-for-25 from behind the arc, offsetting Chicago's 78 points scored in the paint.
The following month the Bulls pulled off a thrilling 116-115 buzzer-beating, comeback victory the next time the two tangled, thanks to Zach LaVine's 13 triples, including a 3-pointer with just 0.8 seconds left to play. LaVine's finished the night with a career-best 49 points.
Second year center, Wendell Carter Jr., also had a nice night for the Bulls, notching a double-double of 17 points and 11 rebounds, while rookie Coby White came off the bench again, posting a career-high 28 points.
Terry Rozier III led Charlotte's effort with 28 points, while Marvin Williams stepped up once again, scoring 19 of his 21 points on the night in the second half, helping Charlotte fight back from a 14-point first-half deficit to taking an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter, before Chicago's furious game-winning rally.
As for tonight, both the Bulls and Hornets take the floor trying to stay on a roll. Charlotte comes in having won two in a row after knocking off Washington and Brooklyn (on the road) back-to-back nights earlier this week (Tuesday and Wednesday), while Chicago wants to build off a 136-102 victory over the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday, here at the United Center. The Bulls shot an incredible 54-for-93 (58.1%) from the field and handed out a season-high 32 assists.
For Chicago to come out on top again this evening they're going to need to deliver another blue-collar effort by being aggressive.
When the Bulls fire out of the gates and establish a fast pace right away, good things usually happen. It's essential they play unselfishly, freely sharing the ball with each other, passing it from player-to-player and from side-to-side, while looking for opportunities to attack the basket. All five Bulls on the court must also stay involved in the action throughout the game. Chicago's offense can't become a series of one-on-one battles. The Bulls must outhustle and outexecute Charlotte, forcefully going after every rebound and loose ball.
Defensively Chicago must also create an energetic tone, forcefully jumping into passing lanes, double-teaming the ball, and making sure no Hornet can roam free along the 3-point arc.