Charlotte Can’t Keep Bulls from Going Wire-to-Wire

Washington’s 24 points, 6 Threes Not Enough for Hornets
by Matt Rochinski

More Coverage: Game Action Gallery | Head Coach James Borrego Postgame | PJ Washington Postgame | Malik Monk Postgame

The Hornets entered Thursday night’s game against the Bulls with a chance to clinch at least an appearance in the NBA’s Play-In Tournament with a win over Chicago at Spectrum center coupled with a Washington loss. The Bulls had other ideas however, and slow starts to both halves would prove detrimental to the Hornets. Charlotte dug itself early holes in both the first and third quarters and was unable to bounce back in both halves in a 120-99 loss to Chicago.

First-time father PJ Washington led the way for the Hornets with 24 points, including 6-of-8 from behind the arc, while Malik Monk came off the bench to score 20 for Charlotte with six treys of his own. Terry Rozier (12 points) and Cody Zeller (11) were the only other two Hornets to finish in double-figure scoring.

“Sometimes you get beat, and tonight they were the better team,” Hornets Head Coach James Borrego said. “We’ll keep pushing. No excuses. Nobody’s feeling sorry for us, we just have to keep moving forward. We have a big game tomorrow night - the most important game of the season. We go fight on.”

Chicago controlled the game in most aspects, leading wire-to-wire while outscoring the Hornets, 50-36 in the paint, outrebounding them 56-45 and capitalizing by outscoring Charlotte 19-7 in second-chance points.

The Bulls opened the first quarter on a 10-3 run and pushed the lead to double digits just 5:25 into the game when Coby White’s three gave Chicago a 20-9 advantage. Charlotte struggled early from the field, connecting on just 3-of-10 shots, but going 2-of-4 from behind the arc. The Bulls meanwhile, connected on 8-of-12 shots to open the contest, getting the ball inside to Patrick Williams for seven early points.

Trailing by double digits, the Hornets would try to hold Chicago off but their early struggles inside would continue as the Bulls built a 48-33 lead with 5:57 left in the half. With Charlotte struggling from the inside, it got back into the game by going outside the arc.

In the next four minutes the Hornets would drain six-straight threes, with two apiece from Washington and Monk and one each from Rozier and Caleb Martin, to trim a 15-point deficit to five. Rozier’s drive on the break would make it a one-possession game late with a 1:02 remaining in the half, 56-53, but a Lauri Markkanen three pushed the lead to 59-53 at the break.

Charlotte would finish the first half shooting better from out side the arc, 12-of-22 (54.5 percent) than it did from inside it, 7-of-21 (33.3 percent). Chicago was more consistent, connecting on 9-of-17 threes (53.0 percent) and 14-of-28 (50.0 percent) twos.

Having trimmed the lead to six, Charlotte had to be hoping to get off to a good start in the second half, but instead saw the Bulls off and running again. Much as they had done to start the game, Chicago brought the game to the Hornets inside early and was able to build a 69-57 lead with a 10-4 run.

While Charlotte’s shooting from outside the arc kept the Bulls at bay at the end of the first half, the Hornets started cold in the second half, missing their first three shots outside the arc. Washington eventually ended the string of Charlotte misses, but Charlotte wouldn’t heat up as they had in the second quarter and finished the third 1-of-7 from long range.

While the Bulls saw the Hornets get back into the game in the second, they weren’t about to have repeat of things in the third as they outscored the Hornets 37-21 in the frame behind 20 points in the paint and five three-pointers and took a 96-74 lead into the final frame.

The Hornets did get a posterizing jam from Caleb Martin over Nikola Vucevic in the fourth quarter that should be on SportsCenter’s Top 10, but it was the lone highlight in a tough second half for the home team.

Vucevic would lead seven Bulls scoring in double figures with 29 points to go with a game-high 14 rebounds. Zach Levine scored 13 points after missinh 11 games with Health and Safety Protocols and returns

The NBA schedule makers didn’t give Charlotte time to mull over the loss as they’ll tip off at 8 p.m. on Friday at Spectrum Center against the Orlando Magic. Tune in to Bally Sports Southeast or listen on WFNZ to follow the action.

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