The Chicago Bulls need a boost and their schedule might suggest one is on the way with a road game against the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night.
But the Hornets haven’t been pushovers lately, even with more players joining the injury list.
The Bulls simply need to get well soon after losing three of their last five games.
Chicago (36-40) has slipped to 10th in the Eastern Conference, its situation made worse with Wednesday night’s 121-110 home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Meanwhile the Hornets (26-51) have bruised the playoff aspirations of the Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder over the past week. They beat the Mavericks twice.
Zach LaVine has led the Bulls in scoring in three of the past four games, but scored just 16 points in the latest clash with the Lakers.
Chicago has been ailing to a degree as well. Guard Alex Caruso returned to action Wednesday after missing Monday’s game with a foot injury, but he logged only 19 minutes and scored five points.
Coach Billy Donovan said he didn’t like the way Caruso was moving and that caused the limited playing time.
“Alex is going to give everything he’s got,” Donovan said. “It’s an ongoing challenge for him.”
Andre Drummond didn’t play Wednesday night because of personal reasons that have been connected to mental health.
That situation could be a distraction for the Bulls.
“A lot of times as we come here and play games, there’s also a human side and personal side to all these guys,” Donovan said. “And you feel bad when anybody is going through something like that.”
For Charlotte, the absence of key players has contributed to the blossoming of forward P.J. Washington’s career. He racked up a career-high 43 points in Tuesday night’s 137-134 victory at Oklahoma City.
“Everybody played together,” Washington said. “We got good shots. We played for each other. I’m proud of these guys. Credit to my teammates getting me in the right spots. I was just trying to be aggressive with the shots that I did take and just get in the paint and take easy shots. I felt like I got going early and just tried to keep at it.”
The Hornets played at Oklahoma City without starters Gordon Hayward (thumb), Terry Rozier (foot) and Kelly Oubre Jr. (shoulder) and reserve Dennis Smith Jr. (toe).
While Washington has played well at times during his career with the Hornets, he rarely would be described as a go-to-option. Then came Tuesday night.
“PJ was obviously terrific,” coach Steve Clifford said. “We had the stretch where we were able to build the lead just playing through him. He scored. He created shots for everybody else.”
It wasn’t just a one-game splurge for Washington. He has led Charlotte in scoring in three of the past four games.
Perhaps the teamwork has picked up because the Hornets have won three games in a row.
“Our ball movement was good,” Clifford said of the Oklahoma City game. “We had 34 assists.”
And the Hornets didn’t let up. In fact, they got better with the game on the line. Their 44 fourth-quarter points tied for the fourth-highest total in franchise history.
The Bulls are 2-1 this season against Charlotte, which launches a four-game homestand Friday.
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