What: Charlotte Hornets (13-9) at Chicago Bulls (13-8)
When: 8:00 PM ET
Where: United Center; Chicago, IL
How to watch: Bally Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
It’s LaMelo Ball and the Charlotte Hornets going up against big brother Lonzo Ball and the Chicago Bulls. This one, folks, should be a ball. To get the ball rolling (okay, though bad puns) this matchup has major implications in the Eastern Conference standings. There are currently six teams within two games of first place in the East, and the Hornets and Bulls are right in the thick of those contenders.
Both teams are probably kicking themselves right now. The Hornets inexplicably lost to the 3-16 Houston Rockets on Saturday while the Bulls have lost three of their last four games, including their own loss to the lowly Rockets.
Chicago Bulls Overview
Shooting guard Zach LaVine made the All-Star team last season and isn’t letting up this year. He’s averaging 25.8 points on 48.8% shooting with 5.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. Wing DeMar DeRozan, a four-time All-Star, is essentially LaVine’s statistical twin with 25.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game. LaVine and DeRozan make for one of the most dynamic backcourt scoring duos in the NBA.
Rounding out the Bulls starters are point guard Lonzo Ball who’s shooting a blistering 44.4% from the 3-point line this year. Center Nikola Vucevic is one of the more underrated big men in the league as a walking double-double machine at 13.8 points and 10.8 rebounds who also dishes out 4.2 assists per game. Forward Javonte Green often starts but only plays about 19 uninspiring minutes per game.
Chicago’s bench has been bolstered by new arrival guard Alex Caruso who’s one of the league’s better on-ball defenders and is among the league leaders in both steals and deflections. After Caruso the Bulls bench is pretty thin with forward Derrick Jones Jr. (6.6 PPG), guard Ayo Dosunmu (6.1 PPG), guard Coby White (6.1 PPG), and center Tony Bradley (3.6 PPG, 4.2 RPG) each playing reserve roles.
How the Hornets Can Win
I think the key will be containing Nikola Vucevic. The Bulls have very few offensive weapons after him, LaVine, and DeRozan, so limiting one of these three players will be key. I like Charlotte’s length and athleticism in matching up with LaVine and DeRozan, but Vucevic always scares me. He’s very skilled both in the post and away from the rim. He’s a solid rebounder. He’s the type of center the Hornets have traditionally struggled against, especially with Mason Plumlee missing time.
After losing a disappointing game to the Houston Rockets on Saturday, this is a big bounce back opportunity for the Hornets.