Forced to play without six regular starters or rotation players, an undermanned Bulls squad couldn't overcome a 21-point deficit, losing to Charlotte 103-93 in their first game back from the All-Star break.
Well, the Bulls won the third quarter.
Nobody else got hurt.
Thaddeus Young scored a season high 22 points with his second double/double in the last three games.
Did anyone mention the Bulls won the third quarter?
Okay, there weren't that many positives Thursday when the Bulls lost their seventh consecutive game, 103-93 to the Charlotte Hornets. The Bulls at 19-37 with six regulars out injured and only nine players available fell to 11th in the Eastern Conference, now closer to the Cavaliers in last place than the Magic in eighth place.
"I try to coach the guys we have as hard as I can; I try to be an encouraging as possible," said Bulls coach Jim Boylen. "We've got guys in different spots. Luke (Kornet) played four tonight. He really hasn't played four all year. Tomas (Satoransky) played four tonight; hasn't played a whole bunch of four. Coby's (White) a young, developing guy. I'm not going to get caught up in what could be or what we should have. That's not my job. My job is to coach the guys I have as hard as I can."
Chuck Swirsky recaps Chicago's loss to the Charlotte Hornets
It's a difficult time for the Bulls with games running out for a chance to reach that elusive playoff goal and so many players missing. Chandler Hutchison was added to that lost list with recurring shoulder problems. Wendell Carter Jr. and Otto Porter Jr. are believed close to a return, but remained out along with Denzel Valentine, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen.
Ryan Arcidiacono started with the bench Cristiano Felicio, Shaquille Harrison, Daniel Gafford and White. Zach LaVine added 19 points, though again almost brought the Bulls all the way back. Harrison had 13 points and White and Satoransky 12 each. The Bulls were seven of 31 on threes after missing their first 17. Though most hit the rim.
"We started off a little sluggish; we have to start off with a little more energy," said Young, who now is averaging 14.1 points and 6.3 rebounds in his 11 starts (8.8 points and 4.5 rebounds off the bench). The guys we do have, we are more than capable of going out and winning the game. We are in games; we're not losing by 25 or anything like that. We came back and got it down to six, four (actually three with a minute left in the third quarter; one possession, as they say on TV). We're in games. We just have to push ourselves over the hump; one or two plays."
Thad Young slams it home in transition.
Ifs and buts; well, if they were actually dunks and layups like the Hornets had throughout the first half in taking a 60-44 halftime lead. None of the Bulls got to participate in Sunday's All-Star game in the United Center. But it shouldn't have meant they also didn't have to play when the regular season resumed.
"I thought we were sluggish in that first half," Boylen agreed. "We just seemed to be a step slow, kinda getting our legs underneath us. I don't exactly know why."
It was a particularly forgettable start as the 19-36 Hornets buzzed by the Bulls in transition, immediately took advantage of mismatches against the various Bulls four-guard lineups and led by double digits eight minutes into the game. Talk about an active Monk as Malik Monk led the Hornets with 25 points, 11 in the first quarter. Miles Bridges added 22. Devonte' Graham, who made the Rising Stars team over Coby White, was scoreless in 33 minutes. It's a bad month for the Bulls all around.
"Our group was disappointed at halftime; they knew they didn't play well and we needed to be more active and I thought they responded and came out and did it. I thought we recovered in the third and made a run and made it a game," said Boylen. "I thought (LaVine) put his head down a few times and took over."
Zach LaVine rises up to the rim for a jam.
It hasn't been a particularly successful season, but LaVine won't give in. The Hornets understood, especially with so much Bulls scoring in sport coats, that LaVine was the target. They probably also remembered their one loss to the Bulls this season when LaVine made 13 of 17 threes and maybe the play of the NBA season, sprinting to the three-point line for the winner. So LaVine saw what seemed like a nest of Hornets, one swarm after another. He finished the game with seven assists, seven rebounds and three steals in addition to his 19 points.
It wasn't working, so he took the cap off his version of bug spray. Which also suggests something about this Bulls team, that they may be beaten, but never defeated.
"Obviously, you don't want to go out there and lose by 40," said LaVine. "We've got to at least make a comeback and try to win."
So Zach began to attack as the Hornets seemed to be eying that 40 as they buzzed to their largest lead, 67-41, early in the third quarter.
Zach LaVine lays it up and in over the Charlotte defender.
Then it was LaVine with a dunk, a three and a drive, seven consecutive Bulls points. OK, the Hornets seemed to say, get that guy. So as Hornets came to LaVine like he was a mound of sugar, LaVine made sweet passes to Arcidiacono, Satoransky, Young and Kornet for threes. The Bulls stung the Hornets with a 22-3 air raid and suddenly were within 76-73 with only seconds left in the third quarter. In a 29-19 Bulls third quarter, LaVine scored or assisted on 21 of the 29 points and added a block and a steal.
He would play 39 minutes. But when he sat down briefly to open the fourth quarter, the Hornets regained an 89-78. He scored on a tough jumper as the 24-second clock expired as soon as he returned to the game. But the Hornets held on like a boxer with a last round lead. A Monk three-point play with 40 seconds left after a LaVine driving score effectively ended the Bulls chances.
"Everybody knows we're undermanned right now, but nobody cares," said LaVine. "It's a dog-eat-dog world out here. Yeah, I'm frustrated. I think everybody is. We've been losing, but I take pride in what I do on the court. Each and every day, I stick with my same routine and that keeps me going. We've got to go out there and do our job. It shouldn't matter what our record is. You've got to look at the game at hand. Each game you look at as an individual battle. You try to go day by day."