For much of the past two months, the Charlotte Hornets have pieced together lineups and rotations despite an array of injuries and player absences.
For one night Monday, the Hornets were the healthier team and did not waste the opportunity. Kemba Walker had 30 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, and the Hornets defeated the Chicago Bulls, 108-91 at Time Warner Cable Arena. With the win, the Hornets (26-26) are back at .500 for the first time since Jan. 6.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had 20 points and seven rebounds, and Nicolas Batum added 19 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. Pau Gasol had 22 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists for the Bulls (27-25), who were without four key players because of injuries. Derrick Rose was a late scratch because of “soreness,” and he joined Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah and Nikola Mirotic on the injured list.
The Hornets authored one of their best quarters of the season in the first, scoring 38 points on 14 of 24 shooting. The scoring spree included 10 points from Kidd-Gilchrist and five 3-pointers from five different players. Charlotte led by 18 after the first quarter and Chicago never got closer than 12 in the final three quarters.
Three who mattered
Kemba Walker: Without Rose, the Bulls couldn’t contain Walker. He found all kinds of space for open jumpers, not needing to test Chicago’s rim protectors to pile up the points.
Nicolas Batum: For the second straight game, the only reason Charlotte’s jack-of-all-trades did not collect a triple-double was because players missed several open shots after he set them up.
Spencer Hawes: Cody Zeller got into foul trouble trying to deal with Gasol, and Hawes gave the Hornets 28 solid minutes.
▪ The Hornets had seven different players combine for 14 made 3-pointers, and neither Jeremy Lin nor Frank Kaminsky were part of the group. Cody Zeller and Kidd-Gilchrist were, and made them on back-to-back possessions, no less.
▪ Counting the game Jan. 29 he left with an elbow bruise, P.J. Hairston has 12 points in the past six games, and zero minutes played in the past two despite not being on the injury report.
▪ Both Batum and Kidd-Gilchrist took advantage of Chicago not having Butler, who is the Bulls’ best wing defender, Jimmy Butler. One of them was either able to post-up E’Twaun Moore (listed at 6-foot-4), or drive by Mike Dunleavy on several occasions.
▪ The Bulls missed their first nine shots of the second quarter, and the bench missed 14 of its 15 in the first half.
▪ Zeller and Hawes both fouled out. Even if the Chicago frontcourt was depleted, dealing with the tricky Gasol and the brawny Taj Gibson in the paint is not easy.
▪ Butler was not available for the Bulls because of a knee injury sustained Friday against Denver. Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said at this point Butler isn’t expected to need surgery.
▪ Walker (5,659 points) passed Glen Rice (5,651) for 4th place on the franchise’s all-time scoring list.
They said it
“It is everything we talked about in the summer time. When he got traded here, I was happy for myself and for us as a unit. On offense, I know he’s going to have a challenge of scoring every night that he didn’t have before. On defense, I have a challenge of (guarding) the best guy on the team. We feed off each other.” – Kidd-Gilchrist on the developing on-court relationship between himself and Batum
“To be back at .500 before the All-Star break, that shows what we are. Guys kept fighting. We never gave up. We’ve been through a lot.” – Batum
“I’ve been terrible the past couple games. It all starts with me. If I bring more energy, I guarantee the second unit will play better.” – Lin, on the team’s bench play, which Hornets coach Steve Clifford criticized for the second time in three games.