Playing for the third time in four nights, and without their leading scorer in the lineup, the Chicago Bulls resembled a team that lost their first nine games of the season.
Facing one of the worst teams in the league, and after a day off, the Bulls look to end a three-game losing streak as they host the New Orleans Hornets.
Chicago made just 5-of-19 shots in the first quarter Wednesday night and never recovered en route to a 100-84 loss to the New Jersey Nets.
“I felt like our start was really poor,” Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. “We were never able to recover from it. It would have been really stealing if we had come back and won that game. They played better than us most of the game and they deserved to win.”
Andres Nocioni and fellow rookie Ben Gordon each scored 15 points to lead the Bulls, who shot just 38.7 percent (29-of-75). Tyson Chandler had 12 points and 14 rebounds, but with Eddy Curry out of the lineup, Chicago was outrebounded 46-41 and outscored in the paint 42-28.
Curry, averaging 15.6 points and 5.4 rebounds, missed the game with a left hamstring strain, but could return Friday. He had eight rebounds in three straight games before grabbing just four to go with his 10 points in Tuesday’s 99-93 loss to the Seattle SuperSonics.
Chicago, a half-game in front of the Indiana Pacers for sixth place in the Eastern Conference, has not lost four in a row since its 0-9 start. Point guard Kirk Hinrich, whose leadership has been a big reason for Chicago’s success, is shooting just 19.6 percent (11-of-56) over the last four games.
New Orleans, which hasn’t won three straight games all season, has dropped four of five after an 88-82 home loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night. Reserve Bostjan Nachbar scored 19 points and rookie J.R. Smith added 11 for the Hornets, who came back from a 15-point deficit in the third quarter before falling short.
“We’ve got so many young players and we’re all gaining a lot of experience, but there comes a time when you’re competitive and you want to win these games,” said guard Dan Dickau, who shot just 2-for-9. “You want to see the fruit of your hard work start to come.”
Hornets center Jamaal Magloire returned Wednesday after missing 51 games with a fractured right ring finger, contributing 10 rebounds and five points in 25 minutes.
STANDINGS (through March 16): Hornets - 5th place, 34 1/2 GB, Southwest Division. Bulls - 3rd place, 7 1/2 GB, Central Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Hornets - Nailon, 14.9 ppg; Magloire, 9.2 rpg; Speedy Claxton, 6.2 apg. Bulls - Curry, 15.6 ppg; Chandler, 9 rpg; Hinrich, 6.6 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Bulls, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Jan. 5; Bulls, 95-89. At New Orleans, Hinrich scored 19 points and Curry added 17 as the Bulls blew a 14-point lead before handing the Hornets a ninth straight loss.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Hornets - 3-28 on the road; Bulls - 19-12 at home.