The Charlotte Hornets lost a physical road matchup against the Chicago Bulls 98-86, after the Bulls' Nikola Mirotic got hot in the fourth quarter. Mirotic was a matchup nightmare for the Hornets, and finished with 28 points off the bench on 10-19 shooting. Without Cody Zeller, the Hornets switched between Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but even the defensive heroics of MKG couldn't not sustain the Bulls international rookie.
Despite losing by eight, the game was close up until the end. Charlotte led at times in the first quarter, and after being down six late in the second quarter, managed to go on a run to lead by one point at halftime. In the second half, the Hornets' offense became muddled. There was little ball movement, and various Hornets players settled for off the dribble pull-ups. The Hornets only managed 11 assists, with most of those coming in the first half.
Despite the ineffective ball movement, Charlotte remained close as the game's end drew near. The turning point came with 2:42 remaining in the fourth, after Kemba Walker was pushed in the back by Pau Gasol as he attempted a one-handed put back. No foul was called, and with Walker on the ground and the Hornets playing four on five, Mirotic connected on a wide open 3-pointer that extended the lead to seven.
Walker did have his best game since returning from injury, finishing with 29 points in 34 minutes. Mo Williams finished with 15 points off the bench, but attempted 16 shots. His best stretch of play was late in the second quarter, when he knocked down a pair of 3-pointers from the top of the arc off of ball screens. Gerald Henderson was the only other Hornets player to score in double figures, finishing with 11. Lance Stephenson started the game 3-3 with seven points, but would only finish with nine.
Pau Gasol finished with 27 points and 12 rebounds, while Jimmy Butler scored 19 points while grabbing nine rebounds. Aaron Brooks sparked the Bulls in the second half, scoring the majority of his 13 points in small stretches.
Final note -- Al Jefferson played just 20 minutes tonight after injuring his knee by landing on Gasol's foot. He finished with just 3 points on 1-7 shooting. The Hornets' broadcast reported that he would be okay, but more won't be known until later tonight or tomorrow.
With this loss, the Hornets finished 1-4 on the five game road trip. Wednesday they are back home against the Brooklyn Nets for an important game with playoff seeding implications.