The Hornets jumped out to an 8-0 lead thanks in no small part to some strong interior play from Bismack Biyombo. Lauri Markkanen finally broke the seal for the Bulls after over three minutes of play by rebounding his own missed layup and flushing it home. The Hornets did most of their damage in the paint, hitting only two 3-pointers in the first quarter. Those three came from unlikely sources—The Cody’s, Zeller and Martin. The Hornets other 18 points either came in the paint or at the free throw line. Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo combined to match the Bulls 15 first quarter points, and the Hornets held a nine point lead at the break.
The sluggish offensive play continued into the second quarter. Denzel Valentine hit a couple buckets because I tweeted about him.
Denzel Valentine is checking in for the Bulls. I totally forgot he was a thing.— At The Hive (@At_The_Hive) December 14, 2019
The Hornets stayed reliant on interior baskets and free throws to score while they clanged their outside shots. The Bulls fared slightly better from behind the arc, but the Hornets stonewalled their attempts to score inside. The Hornets led by as many as 15, but the Bulls scored the last 11 points of the half (six from the free throw line) to cut the Hornets’ lead down to four. At the half, the score was 44-40 while the teams combined to shoot 34.1% from the field and 18.2% from three.
The Bulls scored the first four points of the second half to tie the game, but the Hornets scored the next eight points, all coming on drives. The Bulls called a timeout to quell the run. It took another three minutes of game time for either team to score a point after that. It was another 1:12 before the Hornets finally scored again. When all was said and done, the teams combined for 25 third quarter points. The Hornets had 59 points heading into the fourth quarter yet somehow still led by nine points.
The Bulls exploded for seven points in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter. That included two free throws from Ryan Arcidiacono, who caught Malik Monk and PJ Washington napping on an inbound after he made a short jumper. He stole the inbound pass and got fouled attempting to follow his initial blown layup. Devonte’ Graham finally snapped the Hornets cold streak from three; they had missed their previous 17 attempts. Another 7-0 Bulls run pulled them within two points was answered by the Hornets suddenly figuring out how to make 3-pointers. Back to back Bulls turnovers led to back to back 3-pointers for Graham and Terry Rozier. Miles Bridges added a three of his own less than a minute later. The Bulls seemed to quit after that point. The Hornets scored a few more easy buckets down the stretch while the Bulls played with very little urgency.
The Hornets somehow managed to get six players in double figures (all five starters and Cody Zeller). Devonte’ Graham struggled for most of the game, but he came through with key buckets down the stretch.
If you missed this game, consider yourself lucky.
The Hornets wrap up their mini road trip in Indiana on Sunday evening.