Defense Gets It Done For Hornets in Home Win Over Bulls

Hornets Highlights vs Bulls - 01/26/23

Ball and Hayward Both Return; Charlotte Holds Chicago to 60 PTS Over Final 3 Quarters

Following a shaky start on the defensive end, the Charlotte Hornets locked in over the final three quarters in their much-anticipated return home on Thursday night, resulting in a 111-96 win over the visiting Chicago Bulls.

Terry Rozier finished with a game-high-tying 28 points on 9-of-19 shooting, four 3-pointers, five rebounds, two assists and four steals – all of which came in the third quarter – in the victory. Mason Plumlee then added 21 points on a flawless 9-of-9 shooting and 12 rebounds, giving himself a career-high six straight 15-point games and a career-high-tying 19th double-double of the campaign.

An up-and-down opening half put the Hornets down eight at the break, but 12 points off six Chicago turnovers in the third helped trim the deficit to two heading into the fourth. Two minutes into the ensuing frame, Charlotte ripped off a 17-5 run to turn a two-point hole into a 100-90 lead with 3:42 remaining. The Bulls responded with back-to-back Zach LaVine buckets, before another 6-0 Charlotte burst capped off by a Plumlee pull-up jumper sealed the victory.

Over the final three quarters, Chicago managed only 60 points on 39% shooting and went an ice-cold 1-of-20 from 3-point range with 11 turnovers. This marks the second time this season that the Hornets have allowed less than 100 points – the first time in a win – with the 96 points now a new season low for a Charlotte opponent and tied for the second-fewest in a game this season for Chicago.

“I felt like we kept the ball out of the paint,” said Hornets Head Coach Steve Clifford afterwards, when asked about the team’s post-first quarter defensive play. “The other thing that helped them so much in the first half were (our) turnovers, which they were scoring off, too. We had 11 turnovers at halftime, so that was part of it. Our defense was much better tonight, and really good in the second half.” Added Plumlee, “I thought we were a little more physical. Terry created some turnovers there in the third. Just overall, our defense was better.”

LaMelo Ball returned from a three-game absence to tally 15 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in a near-triple-double performance. While Ball went a mere 2-of-15 from the field, one of his makes was a momentum-shifting transition 3-pointer during the team’s mid-fourth-quarter run. Likewise, Gordon Hayward was back from a two-outing absence and had 17 points – his most since Dec. 19 in Sacramento – on 6-of-10 shooting, three assists and two steals.

“What it does is it takes so much pressure off the perimeter guys,” said Clifford, on having Ball and Hayward available. “Gordon was really good at both ends of the floor. [LaMelo’s] a difference maker. He puts so much pressure on the defense every time he touches the ball. Even for him, as good as he is, rarely is a guy going to come back and be in rhythm. I thought the guy who turned the game around was Terry. His defense was really, really good.”

DeMar DeRozan had 28 points on 9-of-21 shooting – 10-of-11 from the charity stripe – and five assists in the loss, Chicago’s second in eight head-to-head meetings with the Hornets since the start of the 2020-21 NBA season. The rest of the Bulls’ starters – LaVine (18), Patrick Williams (15), Nikola Vučević (12) and Ayo Dosunmu (12) – also scored in double figures, as well.

The Hornets will close out their short two-game homestand against the Miami Heat on Sunday, Jan. 29 beginning at 1 PM ET. Catch all the action on Bally Sports Southeast and WFNZ 92.7 FM.