The Chicago Bulls will try to build upon their best performance of the season when they host the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night.
Chicago is coming off a 136-102 win against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday that marked its largest margin of victory this season and its highest-scoring performance in a regular-season, non-overtime game since 2008. The Bulls also topped 100 points in three quarters for the first time since 2008.
For Zach LaVine, the Bulls’ top scorer this season, the game offered a glimpse of how the team can improve going forward.
“We usually mess up with (leads in the fourth quarter),” LaVine said. “We finally figured that out (against the Hawks). We should have had a lot more wins where we let them back in multiple games. It’s at the point of the season now where you don’t want to start piling up (the losses). You’ll get washed away. We’re going to be competitive each and every night.”
The next test will come against Charlotte, which is looking for its third win in a row after notching back-to-back victories over the Washington Wizards and Brooklyn Nets. Both wins came by single digits, giving the Hornets a boost of confidence that they can close out narrow victories after losing 16 of their first 25 games of the season.
Hornets guard Devonte’ Graham scored a career-high 40 points on 12-for-21 shooting, going 7 of 12 from beyond the arc, in Charlotte’s 113-108 win over Brooklyn on Wednesday. The second-year pro is averaging 20.0 points per game this season and has helped to fill the scoring void left by Kemba Walker, who signed with the Boston Celtics in the offseason.
Charlotte coach James Borrego said Graham is an important player on a resilient team.
“I think resiliency manifests itself in different ways, and I think you could be led by your top guy or one of your top guys, for sure,” Borrego said. “I think in general this group has been resilient one through 15. They keep battling. We’ve been down throughout the season and we just keep fighting, keep clawing. We find a rhythm and a rotation out there that works, and we did (against the Nets).
“But you’ve got to give Devonte’ a big piece of that. What he’s doing right now is special, and he deserves a lot of credit.”
LaVine and Lauri Markkanen deserve credit for leading the Bulls’ offense, which has been inconsistent this season but has potential to improve. LaVine leads the team with 22.7 points per game, and Markkanen is next with 14.5 points per contest.
Graham leads the Hornets in scoring, followed by Terry Rozier (17.3 points per game), Miles Bridges (12.9) and P.J. Washington (12.2). Big man Cody Zeller also is averaging in double digits with 11.3 points on 54.2-percent shooting.
This is the third of four meetings between the teams during the regular season. Charlotte won at home 126-125 on Oct. 23 in the season opener for both teams. The teams met again in Charlotte on Nov. 23, but that time the Bulls held on for a 116-115 win.
–Field Level Media