10 observations: Bulls sweep home-and-home series vs. Hornets

10 observations: Bulls sweep home-and-home series vs. Hornets originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Bulls needed overtime to do it, but they swept the two-game, home-and-home series against the Hornets with a win in Charlotte Monday night.

Here are 10 observations from the 119-112 victory.

---Thanks to Terry Rozier, this game was a lot closer than the Bulls and their fans probably wanted. The Bulls outplayed Charlotte in the overtime period, outscoring the Hornets 12-5. The Bulls offense struggled at the end of regulation and got bogged down with isolation, particularly to DeMar DeRozan. Billy Donovan told reporters in Charlotte after the game that their execution was better in overtime, “I thought in overtime our ball movement was much better… I thought the way we played in overtime offensively was much better than it was in the regulation in that final maybe two-and-a-half, three minutes.”

The center combination of Nikola Vucevic and Andre Drummond combined for 42 points and 25 rebounds.

Since 2020, the Bulls have won 11 of their 13 games against Charlotte. That's the second-most losses by any Bulls opponent in that stretch. Only the Pistons have lost more games to the Bulls in the last four seasons.

---Vucevic was really active and played all of overtime. He finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. One of those dimes was a great play to Alex Caruso in overtime.

---Zach LaVine was originally a game-time decision with right shoulder soreness in addition to the right foot inflammation that kept him out 17 games. The stat-line for LaVine didn’t look great, 9 points on 2 of 8 shooting including 2 of 6 from three, but Donovan said he was impressed with LaVine’s defense, “If he can give us what he’s give us these two games on the defensive end of the floor with that kind of effort and that kind of work, then you know what… he’ll find his rhythm offensively.”

LaVine finished with two 3-pointers made, well short of his career-best 13 in Charlotte on Nov. 23, 2019. Including that game, the Hornets have lost 94 of their 158 home games since (only three teams have lost more).

LaVine just missed out on a highlight-reel alley-oop dunk from DeMar DeRozan in overtime.

---Billy Donovan said in his pregame media session that both Vucevic and LaVine were still on minutes restrictions. LaVine played nearly 36 minutes Monday in Charlotte, while Vucevic played 30. Expect LaVine and Vooch to return to the starting lineup soon, though. Maybe even Wednesday vs. the Houston Rockets.

"I think once you get them to 32, 35 (minutes), then there is no need to bring them off the bench." Donovan said postgame.

---Andre Drummond hit double-digit rebounds for the seventh straight game. He's been an absolute monster on the boards since starting for the injured Vucevic on Dec. 26. In this seven-game stretch, Drummond is averaging 17.4 rebounds per game. Speaking of Drummond, he is the current holder of Thor's hammer, Mjolnir, given to the Bulls player who had the biggest impact on defense over a five-game stretch. It is unknown if Hornets forward JT Thor is aware of this new Bulls tradition.

---The Bulls were once again active on defense with seven steals and seven blocks -- they're second in the NBA in deflections this season. Their overall defense is 15th in the league, but a big part of their identity is being as disruptive as possible.

---The Bulls jumped out to a 16-5 lead to start the game thanks to some strong defense and hot shooting. That lead evaporated quickly, and the Hornets led 25-24 after one. Entering the game, the Bulls were 5-18 this season when trailing after the first quarter.

---The Hornets dropped to 3-16 in their last 19 games without LaMelo Ball. The third overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft is reportedly close to returning from an ankle injury that’s kept him out since Nov. 26. The Hornets are near the bottom of the league in nearly every key offensive category with Ball sidelined.

---Billy Donovan was asked before the game about his memories from 1996 when the Bulls won a then-NBA record 72 games. The entire '95-96 team, along with many others, are being inducted into the Bulls inaugural Ring of Honor in a halftime ceremony during Friday's Bulls-Warriors game. Donovan recalled transitioning from Marshall to the University of Florida that summer.

"I always enjoyed following the playoffs and following that time," he said. "It was great times."

---Stacey King is not a fan of the acoustics at the Spectrum Center where the Hornets play.

"They have this fake noise in the arena, man, this is terrible," King said.

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