By: Jay Patel
Spread: Chicago Bulls (-4.5)
Tip-Off: 7:00 P.M. CT, United Center, Chicago, IL
Bulls basketball is back. The All-Star festivities are over in Chicago, and now the Bulls are looking to get back into the playoff picture. They come out of the break with four straight home games. Additionally, three out of four home games are against teams below .500. This will be the final meeting between the two teams. Charlotte leads the season series 2-1.
Charlotte is only a half-game back of the Bulls in the standings. They went into the break on a short two-game winning streak. Charlotte recently bought out veterans Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchirst. However, the Hornets have a nice core brewing in Devonte Graham (18.1 PPG and 7.8 AST), Miles Bridges (13.0 PPG and 5.5 REB), and PJ Washington (11.7 PPG and 5.5 REB). After the departure of fan-favorite Kemba Walker, Graham and Terry Rozier (17.8 PPG, 4.5 REB, and 4.1 AST) have done a solid job of filling the void.
Charlotte’s season has gone as most expected due to departure of their star. However, the Hornets are very well in the playoff hunt. Moreover, they have a better road record than home record. However, a -7.3 scoring margin (3rd worst in East) isn’t going to help their case.
The Bulls are close to getting the team back together. Otto Porter Jr. returned to practice, however, he will remain out for this matchup. There was a chance for a potential return of Wendell Carter Jr., but he will also be sidelined for tonight’s game. Furthermore, the Bulls will be thin at the forward position with both Denzel Valentine and Chandler Hutchison out with minor injuries. Some more bad news for the Bulls is the added absence of Kris Dunn. Dunn will remain out another month with a sprained MCL. Similarly, Lauri Markkanen isn’t expected to return until mid-March. The injuries have piled up for the Bulls, but hopefully, they won’t last long.
Zach LaVine is looking to build off a stellar first half in which he averaged 25 PPG. Playoffs are a goal for LaVine, but he will need the help of his teammates to make it happen.
Analysis and Prediction
This is a critical game right out of the break for both of these teams. With a win, the Hornets would jump the Bulls in the standings. Chicago can’t let that happen. Even though they have been dealt with too many injuries to handle, the Bulls must find a way to win, and remain in the 10th seed. Zach LaVine, Tomas Satoransky, and Thad Young will carry the Bulls tonight in a pivotal must-win game, and Chicago will cover at the -4.5 spread.