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The Charlotte Hornets simply couldn’t have asked for a better performance in their final road game of the season on Friday night in Chicago, taking advantage of a blistering start on the way to 133-117 victory over the hometown Bulls.
LaMelo Ball led the way with 24 points – 15 in the first quarter – five rebounds and a game-high nine assists, while Miles Bridges also had 20 points to help the Hornets notch just their second win of the season on night two of a back-to-back.
An already hot start turned into an inferno for the Hornets in the second quarter, as they opened the frame on a blistering 22-6 run to take a 61-36 advantage with 5:53 to go in the first half. The lead eventually swelled to 28 by the break as Charlotte tied a franchise record with 79 first-half points, then pretty much cruised to its first victory over the Bulls in six attempts.
“I thought it was an aggressive mindset,” said Hornets Head Coach James Borrego following the win. “We came out aggressively on both sides of the ball, set the tone with our defense, got out – we were disruptive there. They still got 30 in the first quarter, but the second-quarter defense to hold them to 21 really set the tone. It started with that first group. They came out aggressive on both ends of the floor and obviously, we were making shots, which helps.”
Kelly Oubre Jr. added 18 points to lead a bench unit that outscored its Chicago counterpart, 59-37. Charlotte finished the night with a 60.5% field-goal percentage, its highest in any game since Dec. 19, 2008 in Memphis (65.8%). The squad also connected on 19-of-40 3-point attempts (48%) and had 61 points in the paint (31-of-41).
Zach LaVine racked up 23 points and seven assists for Chicago in the loss, its fourth straight. The Bulls actually shot fairly well – 54% from both the field and 3-point range – but really struggled with transition defense, as evidenced by Charlotte’s 23 fast-break points on 100% shooting.
With the victory, the Hornets clinched their first winning season since 2015-16 and have moved into a tie with Atlanta – who lost on Friday in Miami – for ninth in the Eastern Conference, although the latter does have the tiebreaker. Brooklyn is now in seventh after beating Cavaliers, which pushed them to eighth, but just one game ahead of the Hawks and Hornets.
Added Borrego, “We put ourselves in a great position. From where we’ve come from to this opportunity to push for 43 wins this season, it’s fantastic. I couldn’t be prouder of this group and I’m really excited for them. I hope we embrace that game Sunday, which I believe we will. That’s what we can control. The standings, the rest of the stuff will take care of itself. Right now, we’ll just focus on winning that game on Sunday and playing the right way.”
That game on Sunday will in fact be the Hornets’ regular season finale, which takes place against the Washington Wizards starting at 3:30 PM ET at Spectrum Center.