Bulls bring late effort, but lose seventh straight
The difference in the effort given by the Bulls between the first and second halves on Thursday was so drastic, it seemed like there must have been some sort of transformation at halftime.
Somebody either threw a chair or punched a hole in the white board or grabbed some live power lines -- something must have happened, right?
It turns out the Bulls have some pretty calm guys on the roster. So nobody admitted to lighting fuses in the locker room.
The Bulls lost to Charlotte 103-93 at the United Center to extend their losing streak to seven. In the third quarter, they cut a 21-point deficit down to 2.
"We don't want to go out there and lose by 40," Zach LaVine said. "We've got to at least make a comeback and try to win. We had to make some type of adjustment."
Veteran forward Thad Young was the catalyst of the comeback. He finished with a season high 22 points, to go with 11 rebounds and 4 steals. LaVine scored 19 points, shooting 8-for-22 from the field, while Shaq Harrison scored 13 points off the bench.
"We came in and we talked about it," Young said. "We knew what the problem was, so we just came in, talked about it and tried to push that first half behind us. The good thing was the game wasn't out of reach."
This was their first game in eight days following All-Star Weekend in Chicago, so maybe it was nothing more than post-vacation doldrums.
"I think it was. I'm hoping it was," Young said. "That's definitely one of the things happens after the break. We just knew if we come out and lock in, we can get ourselves back in the game.
"I'm a mentally tough guy. Always been that way my whole life, my whole career. I'm going to go hard no matter what. It's just about continuing to lead and helping (teammates) out."
The first half was about as lackluster an effort as the Bulls have delivered all season, or at least since they scored a season-low 73 points the last time Charlotte was in town on Dec. 13.
The Bulls (19-37) are pretty much playing out the season with faint hopes of improvement once some players get healthy. But you always have to be wary of Bulls history. Management loses patience with coaches quickly and last year they fired Fred Hoiberg just before three key players were set to return from injury, making a preemptive strike so the new coach (Boylen) would have the benefit of a full lineup.
In other words, common sense doesn't always prevail in these cases, so who knows what could happen if the Bulls didn't respond with a better effort in the second half?
Charlotte's lead peaked at 67-46 three minutes into the third quarter when Terry Rozier hit a 3-pointer. The Bulls answered with their first 3-point basket of the night by LaVine after they had gone 0-for-17 as a team from long range to that point.
What followed was a 22-3 run, with the Bulls closing within 70-68 on Coby White's 3-point play with 3:05 left in the third.
LaVine missed 2 free throws with the Bulls down by 9 points with 4:02 left, then Malik Monk drained a 3-pointer to make it 97-85. The backbreaker came when Young played perfect defense and blocked Monk's driving layup, but the ball bounced out to Miles Bridges, who drained a corner 3-point as the shot clock expired and Charlotte led 100-91 with 59 seconds left.
"Our group was disappointed at halftime," coach Jim Boylen said. "They knew they didn't play well and that we needed to be more active. And I thought they responded and came out and did it. I was happy with that."
One oddity was Charlotte's leading scorer Devonte Graham managed no points in 33 minutes. Monk led the Hornets with 25 points off the bench.
Rookie center Daniel Gafford returned to action as promised and fouled out in 16 minutes of action. He had 5 points and 4 rebounds.