The 11-5 Chicago Bulls go on to face the 10-8 Charlotte Hornets at home in the United Center. With a 8:00 PM ET tip-off on Saturday night, the Bulls will look to get their third game won in a row.
After a 99-90 victory on Wednesday against the Denver Nuggets, the Bulls will try to improve on all areas of play. Even with the victory, Fred Hoiberg's squad was extremely low energy and struggled with turnovers. 7-foot center Pau Gasol helped carry his team to the finish line with season highs of 26 points and 19 rebounds. Guard Derrick Rose praised the big man saying, "He's a big who is very smart, who can pass the ball and read the play". Gasol is much appreciated by his teammates as Rose has struggled on the scoring side, going 3 for 17 with 12 points that night.
The Bulls will need to find more ways to score as they may be without forward Nikola Mirotic, a starter for all 16 games of the season. The forward suffered a gash from an inadvertent elbow and is under going the NBA's concussion protocol. In Mirotic's possible absence, expect veteran Joakim Noah to get the starting nod and Taj Gibson as well as rookie Bobby Portis to attain extra minutes throughout the game.
After two days off the Bulls will look to improve their impressive 7-1 record at home as they go on to play 7 of their next 8 at the United Center. The Bulls face a Charlotte Hornets squad missing key player Al Jefferson, who is out 2 to 3 weeks with a strained calf. Gasol should see a favorable matchup with Jefferson out as he may go up against Cody Zeller, who started against the Golden State Warriors in a loss. Derrick Rose will hope to keep point guard Kemba Walker in check as he has displayed great defense thus far in the season.
The matchup of the game will be guard Jimmy Butler against Hornets star Nicolas Batum. Butler will need to get his shot going early, as he scored 18 vs. Denver earlier this week. Batum is averaging an efficient 16.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game. If Butler can quiet the Hornets' guard, expect many problems for the Michael Jordan-managed Hornets. It is the 3rd meeting of the season between the two teams with the head to head even at one a piece. Butler fired up 27 points while Batum earned 28 points in the most recent matchup. With Jefferson missing, the Hornets may struggle on the rebounding department as well as a lack of physicality in the post. Coach Steve Clifford stated, "You can't pick and choose when you're going to be physical". If the Hornets hope to get the win, they will have to utilize all of their players as well as stay active on the defensive end.
Expect a close game, as the Bulls, who are 2nd place in the Eastern Conference only behind the 13-5 Cleveland Cavaliers, go up against the 9th placed Hornets in an important Saturday night tilt.