The Charlotte Hornets have been really good at times during the opening weeks of the season.
It’s the bad stretches that they need to eliminate.
The Chicago Bulls have an eerily similar early resume as they enter Wednesday night’s contest against the visiting Hornets, who have dropped three of their last four games.
Chicago is coming off a 108-99 victory at Brooklyn on Tuesday, snapping a two-game losing streak. It was the first time the Bulls held an opponent under 100 points this season.
Meanwhile, the Hornets’ defense hasn’t been up to the standard that head coach Steve Clifford has set in Charlotte, and it was apparent in the team’s 115-108 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Monday.
“You’re not going to win fouling like that,” Clifford said. “Every drive we fouled. Every time we had a chance to either make a smart play and contest or slap down, we slapped down. You just can’t win like that.”
Clifford said the Hornets “gifted” the Kings 10 to 12 free throws, and there’s plenty of evidence to back up that claim. Charlotte was called for a season-high 26 fouls.
That type of defense could be particularly costly against a Bulls team that attempts 26.9 free throws per game and has hit 182 of 215 shots from the charity stripe this season (84.7 percent).
Chicago’s ability to cash in at the line just adds to the firepower that the Bulls possess and can unleash at any given time.
“We have a mentality to always come back and we have the talent to do that,” Bulls standout Zach LaVine said.
Chicago has been without center Andre Drummond for the past two games because of a shoulder injury. The Bulls have listed LaVine’s knee ailment as a concern, though he was effective with 29 points against the Nets. He had 20 in the fourth quarter alone.
“Work on your game and hard work always pays off and you become who you are,” LaVine said.
The Hornets are playing without guards LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier. However, point guard Dennis Smith Jr. has proven to be a valuable replacement in the backcourt.
So, while the Hornets are lacking depth among guards, they’re still benefiting from production.
But Charlotte had its transition game derailed in the second half of the Sacramento game.
“Decision-making is one of the most important things for any team,” Clifford said. “You have 21 turnovers, it’s going to be hard to win.”
With the Hornets expected to be without Ball again and Chicago’s Lonzo Ball out with a knee injury, neither brother will be on the court for this matchup.
Wednesday’s game begins a stretch of three games in four nights for the Hornets. That’s concerning given that Clifford has pointed out that Smith, Gordon Hayward, PJ Washington and Kelly Oubre Jr. all seem to be burdened to some degree by the grind of extra minutes.
“They’re playing big minutes,” Clifford said. “It’s hard, for sure.”
This will be the Bulls’ only stop at home amid their current four-game stretch. They are 2-2 in Chicago.
–Field Level Media