Margin for error small for Hornets, Bulls

Sports

The Charlotte Hornets certainly don’t need a late-season slump, but there might be time to reverse a recent trend.

It could be getting too late for the Chicago Bulls.

The teams are set to meet Thursday night in Chicago.

The Hornets (28-29) have dipped below .500 by losing five of their past six games. They are in eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

The Bulls (24-34) are clinging to playoff aspirations. They’re 12th in the East.

“We don’t really have a big margin for error as a team,” Chicago coach Billy Donovan said.

Charlotte’s injuries have taken a toll.

“A lot of our guys, this is the first time they’ve done this (at this level),” Hornets coach James Borrego said of certain roles that players have been asked to fill. “A lot of these guys haven’t been used to these kind of minutes.”

The Hornets have reached the 100-point mark in only six of their past 11 games. Sorting out offensive snags seems to be an overriding theme with the team.

“It’s very difficult within a game to continually go down the court and be unable to score,” Borrego said.

Chicago has had difficulties as well. The Bulls didn’t have a player with more than 16 points Wednesday night in a 121-105 setback at Cleveland. Among the starters, only Coby White with 14 points scored in double figures. Reserve Lauri Markkanen had a team-high 16.

Chicago was hindered by 19 turnovers.

“We didn’t really do anything well enough on either end of the floor,” Donovan said.

Still, the Bulls had a two-game winning streak before the loss to Cleveland. They’ve scored at least 100 points in 14 of their past 15 games, so not all of their problems reside on the offensive side.

Yet with guard Zach LaVine, who averages 27.5 points per game, missing his fourth game in a row because of the NBA’s health and safety protocols, it’s putting the Bulls in a bind.

For Charlotte, guard Terry Rozier has been a factor on offense, picking up slack with the absence of Gordon Hayward, LaMelo Ball and Malik Monk — all of whom remain out with injuries.

“When we go through these dry spells of 15 points a quarter, I’ve got to try to find something there offensively,” Borrego said.

Ball, a rookie guard, has returned to limited work with the possibility that he’ll be in games by the end of the regular season after suffering a broken wrist last month.

“Hopefully, we have some good news here soon,” Borrego said.

Charlotte guard Devonte’ Graham made it back into action in Tuesday night’s 109-97 loss to the New York Knicks after a two-game absence (quad), scoring nine points in 29 minutes. He averages 14.1 points per game.

“It was great to have him back out there,” Borrego said. “He’ll find more rhythm (in Chicago). I think (Thursday) we’ll see a better version of (Graham).”

Vernon Carey Jr. has made recent starts for Charlotte, but he hasn’t scored in the past two games after a 21-point outing Friday at Brooklyn. He didn’t start the second half against the Knicks, but he’ll be in the starting lineup for the game in Chicago.

“I’ve got to get him some minutes,” Borrego said. “He needs to build that confidence.”

–Field Level Media

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