Portis starts out hot, but Bulls can't finish off Charlotte
Since Michael Jordan retired from the Bulls, there haven't been many guys get as hot as Bobby Portis did in Saturday's first half.
Playing against Jordan's current team in Charlotte, Portis scored 28 points and hit 12 of 16 shots in the first half.
The second half was a different story. Portis couldn't get it going again, finished with 33 and the Hornets flew away in the fourth quarter to post a 125-118 victory.
Hornets guard Kemba Walker more than matched Portis' performance, finishing with 37 points and 10 assists. Walker was the catalyst of a 15-0 Charlotte run after the Bulls led 100-99 with 7:28 left. The Bulls kept getting caught in defensive mismatches and either couldn't stay in front of Walker or watched him dish to open shooters.
"They're kind of hard to stop when Kemba's rolling," Portis told reporters after the game. "They got the crowd involved, they started feeling good for themselves. It's kind of hard to stop any team when everybody starts to feel good. You start seeing everybody makes everything, everything was going in full net. I think we have to do a better job of playing with the lead."
The Bulls led 60-45 late in the first half after Portis' scoring spree. He knocked down 4 of 6 shots from 3-point range in the first half and capped it off with a steal and lay in.
Coach Jim Boylen brought Portis back off the bench at the five-minute mark in the third quarter and he managed just 2 free throws in the quarter. The Hornets were sending double and triple-teams at Portis for most of the second half.
Portis' career-high is 38 points, set last February against Philadelphia. He's struggled through an injury-plagued season this time and had just two 20-point games before scoring 26 and 33 in the last two.
"It's tough being in and out of the rotation, playing four games, miss 20," Portis said. "It's kind of tough having to get back in game shape. Obviously you practice and run conditioning, get on the treadmill and all those things. It's nothing like a body hitting you each and every possession.
"You have to box out a big man, that really takes a toll on your body. I think my legs are starting to come back around and my confidence is coming back as well."
The Bulls actually had two 30-point scorers Saturday, as Lauri Markkanen didn't extend his streak of three-straight double-doubles but did finish with 30 points and 9 rebounds. The Bulls also matched a franchise record by going a perfect 25-for-25 at the foul line.
Zach LaVine added 18 points and Shaq Harriston scored 10. Ryan Arcidiacono was knocked out of the game late in the third quarter when he took an accidental elbow to the nose from Portis.
"I thought they (the Hornets) had a great second half. The ball was moving," Boylen said after the game. "That being said, I thought we did a lot of great things and have been improving offensively. Bobby had a big game. Lauri had a big game. I thought they way we started was really good."
The Bulls (12-41) now have three days off before returning home to face the short-handed New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday. The Bulls will work on snapping an eight-game home win streak. They haven't won at the UC since Dec. 21 against Orlando.