The Chicago Bulls may be one of the stronger teams in the Eastern Conference so far this season, but they’ve been slumping recently.
The Bulls look to go into the All-Star break on a positive note when they visit the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday.
Chicago (29-24) made the playoffs last season as the No. 7 seed in the East, but has been contending for the top spot in a weak conference for most of this season.
The Bulls have been sliding lately, though, and lost for the fifth time in eight games after a 112-111 defeat to Toronto on Tuesday.
Chicago trailed by 12 points with four minutes left in the fourth quarter, before charging back to take a one-point lead on Ben Gordon’s 3-point play with 12.8 seconds remaining. Raptors All-Star Chris Bosh hit two free throws with 2.1 seconds left to retake the lead, and Gordon missed a potential game-winning shot at the buzzer.
“We really didn’t take control of the game like we should have in the first half,” said Gordon, who finished with 26 points, seven rebounds and six assists. “To get so close and lose, I’m a little disappointed.”
While Tuesday’s loss came at the United Center, most of the Bulls recent problems have come on the road, where they are just 9-17, and have lost seven of their last 11 away from Chicago.
They are 3-1 all-time at Charlotte (18-33), though, and have won seven of the nine all-time meetings between the franchises.
The Bulls handed the Bobcats their most lopsided loss of the season in a 115-76 victory on Dec. 23. Chicago shot 52.4 percent from the floor, while holding Charlotte to just 35.6 percent shooting, including a 3-of-16 from 3-point range.
Gordon led all scorers with 23 points, but has scored just 17 points on 7-of-29 shooting in two games at Charlotte Bobcats Arena last season.
Luol Deng had just 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting against the Bobcats in December, but has been leading the Bulls lately. Deng had 30 points on 15-of-23 shooting against the Raptors, and is averaging 25.0 points in his last five games.
Overall, Deng is averaging 18.6 points this season.
Charlotte lost its fourth in a row 104-83 to Houston on Saturday. The Bobcats have lost four straight games on three times this season, and have not lost five in a row since Feb. 10-21, 2006.
They also finished with 25 turnovers Saturday, and are averaging 22.0 turnovers—6.2 more than their season average—during their skid.
“Turnovers and we don’t make shots, that leads to a big loss,” said Brevin Knight, who is 0-for-9 from the floor in two games back after missing 24 games with abdominal surgery.
Raymond Felton led Charlotte with 16 points on Saturday, and had 10 points on just 4-of-15 shooting in the December loss to the Bulls.
Emeka Okafor had 15 points and 12 rebounds against the Rockets, and is averaging 18.3 points and 10.3 rebounds during the skid. Okafor leads the Bobcats in scoring, but was held to just six points in the loss to the Bulls earlier this season.
On Tuesday, the Bobcats acquired guard-forward Eric Williams and second-round pick in 2009 from San Antonio for forward-center Melvin Ely. Charlotte will be the seventh team for Williams, who’s averaged 8.6 points during his 12-year career.