Bulls x Hornets

Keys to the Game: Bulls at Hornets (03.31.23)

Tonight the Chicago Bulls (36-40) visit Charlotte, NC, to meet the Hornets (26-51) for the fourth and final time. The Bulls have won two of the first three get-togethers this year and are shooting to capture their fourth-straight season series against the Buzz. All-in-all, Chicago has won seven of the last 10 games between the teams.

With only six games left in the regular season, the Bulls are 10th in the East, and hold the conference’s final play-in spot. The Atlanta Hawks and Toronto Raptors are two full games ahead of them, while the Washington Wizards are stuck in 11th place, trailing Chicago by two.

The Bulls hit the floor this evening having dropped its last pair of games, falling 124-112 on the road to the LA Clippers on Monday, and 121-110 at home to the Lakers on Wednesday. After facing Charlotte tonight, Chicago’s schedule ends with games at home against Memphis and Atlanta, and visits to Milwaukee and Dallas, before concluding back at the United Center against Detroit.

Coming into tonight’s contest, the Bulls are 24th (112.8) in offensive efficiency, but 6th (112.0) overall on the defensive end. Zach LaVine leads the team in scoring at 25 points per game. Six-time All-Star, DeMar DeRozan, is just behind LaVine at 24.9 per game, while center Nikola Vučević delivers 17.7 points and 11.1 rebounds. Against the Lakers the other night, Vučević found his groove early and went on to lead Chicago’s attack with 29 points and 12 rebounds. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to get him on track early again tonight.

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind this evening as the Bulls attempt to swat the Hornets one last time this season (6:00 pm CST tipoff – NBC Sports Chicago):


All that’s left for the Hornets this season is to play spoiler. Charlotte was eliminated from postseason contention long ago and come in tonight with the fourth-worst record in the league, ahead of only Detroit, Houston, and San Antonio.

Charlotte is dead last in offensive efficiency (30th, 108.7), and 20th (114.6) on defense. However, despite another frustrating year that hasn’t stopped the Hornets from giving their all on a nightly basis. In fact, they’re on a roll of late, having won three straight games, knocking off Dallas twice and then posting a 137-134 victory in Oklahoma City on Tuesday.

Forward P.J. Washington has really been coming on strong as the season moves along. In a dozen games this month, Washington is averaging 18.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists over 32.7 minutes. For the season, he’s delivering a career-best 15.8 points, along with 4.9 rebounds. But against the Thunder the other night, he hit 16-of-24 (66.7%) from the field in dropping 43 points on the Thunder.

In fact, it was a solid team effort, and not just a one-man job – although Washington put on a heck of a show.

On the road against the Thunder, which is never an easy task, the Hornets, as a team, shot a blistering 52-of-94 (55.3%) overall from the field, and 14-of-35 (40%) from beyond the three-point arc. They regularly attacked the rim and made their way to the charity stripe for a whopping 30 free-throw attempts.

The Bulls can’t afford to take anything for granted this evening, as the Hornets have to be feeling fairly confident in their abilities in riding a three-game winning streak and facing a team that has lost two straight by double-digits.

Injuries have played a major role in Charlotte’s tough season. Star point guard LaMelo Ball has only been able to suit up 36 times. When available, Ball was spectacular, averaging 23.3 points, 8.4 assists and 6.4 rebounds.

Talented backcourt mate, Terry Rozier, has also been in-and-out of the lineup, playing just  63 games. When he was able to take the floor, Rozier, on average, delivered 21.1 points, 5.1 assists and 4.1 rebounds.

Forwards Kelly Oubre Jr. (48 games, 15.8 points) and Gordon Hayward (50 games, 14.7 points) have also missed significant time this season.

As of this writing, all four aren’t expected to play against the Bulls. Ball and Rozier are definitely out, while Oubre Jr. has been listed as “questionable,” with Hayward designated as “doubtful.”


For the Bulls to achieve success they have to hit the floor with a hardnosed attitude from the jump. They need to be physical, play fast, and be unselfish. At no time can they relax or coast.

Chicago must freely skip the ball around the floor, making sure everyone gets engaged and invested in the action. Additionally, every player has to constantly move in-and-out of the paint and all around the perimeter to free themselves from defenders for easy scores and also gain open looks at the basket.

To that end, the Bulls need to consistently get the ball deep into the paint, attack and finish their shots at the rim. They have to force Charlotte’s defense to scramble and breakdown.

As the late, great former legendary Chicago Bulls All-Star point guard, Norm Van Lier, would plead before every game, “I need 48 minutes of INTENSITY!”