The Bulls kicked off their post-All-Star break slate with not a bang, but a whimper. Observations from a choppy 103-93 home loss to the Hornets:
A rotation in flux
Jim Boylen had to get inventive with his rotations tonight — flushed with injuries, the Bulls only had nine players available. All played in the first quarter, with Ryan Arcidiacono drawing a spot start at small forward in place of an injured Chandler Hutchison.
Daniel Gafford was the first one off the bench after Luke Kornet picked up two fouls in the game’s opening moments. That’s good news for those still concerned about the state of his sprained ankle or that Cristiano Felicio might have jumped him in the rotation in his absence. Gafford fouled out after 16 minutes, but showed some spring:
WELCOME BACK DANIEL GAFFORD! pic.twitter.com/6X9W6cJnsL— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) February 21, 2020
Boylen played all three of his centers close to an equal minutes distribution while he could (he’s clearly still easing Gafford in) and toyed with a few smaller lineups, including one with Tomas Satoransky, Zach LaVine, Coby White and Shaq Harrison all on the floor towards the end of the first quarter. Without Hutchison or Porter, they’ll have little choice but to play guards 1-3 for the foreseeable future. The Hornets won the boards 44-38 tonight.
Arcidiacono finished with 1-for-6 in 28 minutes in his first start of the campaign. He becomes the 12th Bull to start a game in the season — only White, Denzel Valentine, Felicio, Adam Mokoka and Max Strus have suited up for the Bulls this season without logging a start.
Other notable lines: White finished with 12 points (3-for-10) in 30 minutes. Satoransky had 12 points, eight assists and six rebounds. Harrison chipped in 12 points and LaVine — on an off shooting night — notched 19 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. We’ll get to Thad Young.
The Bulls staged a third quarter script-flip
The Bulls trailed 60-44 at the half, shooting just 36% from the field and 0-for-15 from 3. But they made it a game in the third quarter — a period that’s often plagued them.
The time-tested formula for success was there. In the third, the Bulls shot 6-for-12 from deep and forced six Hornets turnovers (they had seven total in the first half), running hard and often. The Bulls won the frame 29-19, while being collectively outscored 84-64 in the other three.
The Hornets, meanwhile, completely short-circuited for 12 minutes, shooting 7-for-18 (38.9%) from the floor and 1-for-6 (16.7%) from 3. At one point, a 22-3 run by the Bulls cut Charlotte’s lead from 21 to two in just a six-minute span. The UC awoke for a moment, but the visitors pushed that advantage back to six entering the fourth and pulled away from there.
Thad Young played a heck of a game
Thad Young keyed that third period push. He had eight points on 3-for-5 shooting (2-for-2 from 3) and a steal in the frame in 10 minutes played and was everywhere on the floor — popping off screens, grinding on the glass, poking into passing lanes and charging the fast break.
He finished the night with a season-high 22 points on 10-for-18 (2-for-3 from deep) in 35 minutes with 11 rebounds and four steals, to boot. The Bulls looked ready to roll over in the first half, so it was mildly refreshing to see Young — and the rest of the team — bring it in the second for a while, even if the game ended in defeat.
The Bulls continue to look like an injury-stricken team
Outside of the third quarter, the Bulls woes on both side of the ball continued tonight. They finished the night 42.5% from the field and 7-for-31 (22.6%) from three, even while going 7-for-14 after their 0-for-17 start from long-range.
And the Hornets, for the most part, had their way with the hosts. Charlotte finished with five players in double figures and despite an off night from deep (8-for-28), shot a respectable 47.3% from the field. Second-year standout Devonte’ Graham went scoreless, yet it was still a comfortable win by the end. Malik Monk led the way with a game-high 25, while Miles Bridges lit up the UC for the second time in a week with a 22 point, eight-rebound outing.
It all culminated in a 103-93 loss for the Bulls that featured more bad than good. At 19-37, losers of seven straight (a new season-high) and as banged up as they've been all season, the playoffs have never felt further away.
Next up: The Phoenix Suns roll into town on Saturday.