When: 7:30 p.m. EST
Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, NC
How to watch: ESPN
CHA: James Bouknight: doubtful (right wrist sprain), Gordon Hayward: out (left ankle), Cody Martin: out (left Achilles soreness), Jalen McDaniels: out (left ankle sprain).
CHI: Lonzo Ball: out (knee), Alex Caruso: out (wrist), Ayo Dosunmu: out (concussion), Derrick Jones Jr.: out (finger), Patrick Williams: out (left wrist).
LaMelo Ball will have to wait a bit before he matches up with his brother, Lonzo, again as the Charlotte Hornets have a chance to end a five-game losing-streak against the Chicago Bulls.
Since these two teams last met, the Bulls have lost both Ball and Caruso to lengthy injuries. Chicago is still an excellent team, but they’ve understandably taken a step back without two main rotation players. They’re 5-5 over the last 10 games and had just ended a four-game slide prior to losing the two guards in late-January.
Nikola Vučević dominated the first meeting, putting up 30 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and two blocks, shooting 6-6 from deep. The Bulls shot 53-89 (59.6 percent) from the field and 14-30 (46.7 percent) from three-point range as a team, and they got pretty much whatever look they wanted once the Hornets defense was forced to rotate. Safe to say tonight’s game won’t look the same aesthetically with so much talent sidelined.
Both the Bulls and Hornets are bottom-10 defenses in the NBA, with Chicago (111.5) holding a slight advantage over Charlotte (112.1). When Hayward has been out this season, the Hornets offense takes a step back and that’s only going to be exacerbated if the team-wide shooting struggles continue. Maybe, just maybe, seeing some shots go down on a poor defense can help them get their rhythm back.
Ayo Dosunmu will be out tonight, but he’s played as big a part as anyone in keeping Chicago atop the Eastern Conference lately. The second-round rookie out of Illinois is averaging 7.8 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 24.7 minutes per game, and his relentlessness as a driver and perimeter defender have translated perfectly to the NBA. Dosunmu racked up 15 points and 14 assists in a win over Indiana on Feb. 4.
James Borrego has ran a short rotation for basically the entire year, but he doesn’t have much of an option other than to extend it for now. Ball, Miles Bridges and Terry Rozier all played at least 41 minutes against Toronto, and they might approach that number again, but someone like Nick Richards, Ish Smith or JT Thor should see their minutes increase soon.