Bulls try to keep pressure on vs. Hornets

Inconsistency has plagued the Chicago Bulls through the first 16 games of the season, but a number of constants have the team feeling optimistic about a turnaround.

One such calling card, pressure defense, continues to buoy the Bulls. Chicago has forced opponents into at least 15 turnovers in every game thus far, a trend the Bulls will look to continue when they travel to face the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night.

"I think our defense is built to force turnovers, the system that we run," guard Kris Dunn said. "We're blitzing guys, trying to get the ball out of their hands. You have to make them make a read. Our defense is built so that after we blitz, we have a triangle (of defenders) behind. If they make a mistake in the read, it often leads to a turnover. We have a lot of good defenders on the team who can create turnovers."

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Chicago has lost four of its past five games, with many defeats featuring late lapses in defensive rebounding and poor positioning on transition.

At one point during Friday's 116-108 home loss to the Miami Heat, Bulls coach Jim Boylen removed guard Zach LaVine for committing what Boylen called three "egregious" defensive mistakes.

LaVine told reporters after the game that he disagreed with Boylen's assessment.

Chicago was without Chandler Hutchison (shin splints) and Otto Porter Jr. (left foot sprain), and trailed by 24 points at the break. A late surge forced Heat coach Erik Spoelstra to re-insert his starters, but the Bulls couldn't maintain the pace.

"What I've talked to them about, and as you guys know I'm an open book with this stuff, is we have to play better in closing out games, and we have to play better in limiting teams in runs," Boylen said. "Runs and closing out games have been issues for us. That's what we talk about, and what we need to do better, what I need to do better and how I can support this group of guys better from my seat. That's what's important."

The Hornets return home after losing the final three games of a four-game road trip, the latest a 125-118 defeat at the hands of the Washington Wizards on Friday night. Washington outscored Charlotte by 13 points in the fourth quarter.

Charlotte has a trio of losing streaks of at least three games this season, but is seeing improved play from Miles Bridges, who scored a career-high 31 points in Washington while also recording a team-high eight rebounds and three steals.

"I thought he was fantastic on both ends of the floor," Hornets coach James Borrego said. "He guarded Bradley Beal, gave us great effort on both sides of the ball, attacked the rim, made shots. This is one of his finer performances so far."

The Hornets edged the visiting Bulls 126-125 on Oct. 23 in the season opener for both teams. Chicago is set to host Charlotte on Dec. 13 and Feb. 20 to conclude the season series.

The Bulls are 2-5 on the road this season, while the Hornets are 3-4 at Spectrum Center.

--Field Level Media

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