Some players turn in their best games when they visit their former teams, but Tyson Chandler didn’t feel like waiting.
Riding the most productive stretch of his six-year NBA career, Chandler looks to keep it up when he and the New Orleans Hornets visit the Chicago Bulls on Friday in a matchup of the league’s top rebounding teams.
Chandler, who spent his first five seasons with the Bulls before a trade sent him to New Orleans in July, led the NBA in rebounding in February at 16.1 per game - nearly two more than anyone else. Chandler also averaged 13.2 points in February to help the Hornets (28-30) to a 9-4 record, the team’s best month since compiling an identical mark last February.
Chandler’s dynamic play has the Hornets in the middle of an unlikely playoff push. They opened the season 12-22, but have since gone 16-8 to pull into contention.
New Orleans beat Atlanta 107-100 on Wednesday for its third win in four games. The Hornets shot just 43.4 percent but outscored Atlanta 22-2 on second-chance points, thanks to 14 offensive rebounds - six by Chandler. Overall, the Hornets, who lead the league at 44.3 boards per game, outrebounded Atlanta 46-32.
Chandler had 18 points and 13 rebounds - his 17th consecutive game with at least 10 boards - while David West added 17 points and 14 rebounds.
“(Rebounding) has been a positive all year long, it seems like,” coach Byron Scott said. “Tyson’s aggressiveness has been contagious. David has been doing a heck of a job lately and the guys coming off of the bench have been doing a good job. Tonight was one of those games where there was a team effort.”
Each starter reached double figures in points for New Orleans, which plays seven of its next 10 on the road, and six of the next eight against teams currently at the .500 mark or better.
“Everybody tonight contributed in a lot of different ways,” said forward Desmond Mason, who had 16 points. “From the defensive end to the offensive end. From handling the ball to making sharp passes. And our bench players also played sharp. We need to do this every night, because March is going to be a tough month.”
That tough month begins with a visit to Chicago, where New Orleans meets a Bulls team that ranks second in the league with 43.9 rebounds per contest, despite the departure of Chandler in the offseason.
The Bulls (33-27) have won four of their last six games and are in fifth place in the East.
Chicago, though, had lost two straight before a 113-83 victory over Golden State on Wednesday. Ben Gordon had 22 points to lead six Bulls in double figures, and added five rebounds and six assists. He’s averaging 21.8 points on 49.4 percent shooting, 4.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists in his last five games.
Bulls rookies Thabo Sefolosha and Tyrus Thomas each scored career highs Wednesday. Sefolosha had 19 points, and Thomas matched his high with 14, including seven in the third quarter as the Bulls outscored Golden State 33-11 in the period.
“They are starting to play a lot better,” Gordon said of Sefolosha and Thomas. “Obviously, they started off a little bit slower. Just the whole rookie process, but they are starting to play better now. We need both of those guys big time down the stretch, so it’s good to see them come around.”
Chicago leads the Eastern Conference in home victories. Only Dallas, owner of the league’s best record, has more home wins than the Bulls, who have taken eight of their last 11 at the United Center.
The Hornets are 9-19 on the road this season, but have won three of their last five at Chicago.
Luol Deng had 21 points and six rebounds as the Bulls beat the Hornets 111-108 in the teams’ first meeting Dec. 1. Chris Paul had 25 points, 18 assists and five steals for New Orleans in the losing effort.