Well, that was a painful one to stomach huh Bulls fans? Another preseason game, another different starting lineup. Fred Hoiberg has something most rookie coaches at the NBA do not get and that's a veteran filled team. Only problem is that this veteran team needs to win now and certain players have injuries or need to be monitored for minutes. In this game, Pau Gasol was rested for what was called general soreness. The starting lineup featured Kirk Hinrich at point, sharing the backcourt with Tony Snell, who came back from his one-game absence due to his ankle injury. Manning the frontcourt was Jimmy Butler, Nikola Mirotic, and Joakim Noah.
It was another slow start, but in this game, Butler started off with the Bulls first points and was assertive from the get-go and had 10 first quarter points. He tried to get the Bulls going on offense and on defense by making some plays. Butler, alone, could not stop the Charlotte Hornets from taking an early 9-0 run within the first four minutes of the game.
Kemba Walker went down early with a heel injury only to come back minutes later. Basketball is a game of runs and so it was the Bulls who went on their first quarter run to knot the game at 14-14, forcing a Hornets timeout. From that point on, neither team could shake the other off, and it was 33-all at the end of one.
Many fans probably did not think it was a good pickup for the team, but Jeremy Lin was a force in this one, constantly beating Bulls guards and looking better than them. On a team that lacks offensive contributions, Lin should fit right in. The Bulls stayed in the second quarter due to getting to the foul line for 13 attempts, most of them from Mirotic and Noah.
Something to note in the first quarter was an engaged Noah, who is looking to prove a lot of people wrong about his play last season. In a season where he may come off the bench due to the offensive system under Hoiberg favoring Mirotic more, any offensive contributions Noah lacked to provide last year due to injury will surely be a welcome sight for Bulls fans.
The second quarter featured a lineup this author quite frankly really liked, with Bobby Portis and Taj Gibson in the frontcourt together. The Bulls quickly ran out with a 9-2 run, making the Hornets burn a timeout. Taj and Portis run the floor very nicely together, and you can surely make almost any kind of switch on defense. This could be a lineup Hoiberg could go to since Portis is looking un-benchable throughout the preseason.
Taj Gibson, since returning from ankle surgery, has been on a minute's restriction, but has played better and better every game as he looks to get more acclimated into the offense. He left his footprints in this second quarter with six points in two short stints. The Hornets came back in a fury, making it 43-all in a drought where the Bulls did not score for over four minutes.
Something we have been used to has been sparkplug Doug McDermott coming in and immediately scoring in bunches. In this game, that wouldn't happen as McDermott finished with five points. Noah, however, surprisingly finished the half with 10 free-throw attempts, proving the aggressiveness we've been missing. The score would continue to go back and fourth until the end of the quarter where the score reached 51-50 in favor of the Bulls.
In the second half, both teams came out neck and neck with Mirotic and Noah providing the first nine points of the quarter with the score being 60-59. Hornets coach Steve Clifford saw enough at 67-61 and called a timeout. The timeout must have done something to the Bulls because they went on another big drought, this time not scoring for about three and a half minutes.
Granted a lot of these scoring problems should not be an issue with the return of Derrick Rose looming and Gasol resting. The Bulls would stay rather quiet in the rest of this quarter, only scoring five more points with the Hornets going on a 12-5 run to make it 73-72, Hornets lead.
P.J. Hairston, of all people, ended the quarter with a sign of bad things to come after making a half-court shot as time expired.
The final quarter began, and there was a matchup worth watching and it was the two rookies going at one another. Though, it was really Portis going at Frank Kaminsky, taking advantage of him on a couple plays forcing Steve Clifford to insert Marvin Williams instead.
No matter, Portis would score the Bulls first eight points, but would finish there and end with 12 points and eight rebounds. Portis gave the Bulls their only and final lead of the fourth quarter at 76-75. Jeremy Lin and Kemba stole the show from the Bulls in the final stanza with each getting seven points.
Lin, time after time, took advantage of the mismatched Aaron Brooks. The problem with Brooks is his defense being so small, and if he is not getting it done on offense, he is a pure liability out there. With poor point guard play, the Bulls would go on another drought at seemingly the worst time with 4:58 to go and never scored until 59 ticks left on a score from E'Twaun Moore.
Brooks finished 1 of 8 and with only two points. The three guys who have played point guard for the Bulls in these exhibitions combined for only nine points on 4 for 20 shooting. The Hornets would breeze by the Bulls in this one and finish the game with a 94-86 triumph. This game showed what the Bulls are missing and that is their former MVP. Sure, the big men stepped up and looked great, but it was the guards in this game who took it away from the Bulls.
Butler flashed some of his dominance, as he showed in preseason game one after struggling throughout the others and finished with 18 points. Gibson looks to be healthier than ever, scoring 14 points in limited minutes. Joakim Noah played like his old playmaking self, notching seven assists to go with 13 points and 12 boards and was the defacto point guard.