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Chicago Bulls outlast Charlotte Hornets, snap 10-game skid

By
John Delong, The Sports Xchange

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It's been a struggle for the Chicago Bulls all season, and especially lately.

But the Bulls have continued to fight and they were rewarded for their perseverance on Friday night.

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Chicago couldn't close out the Charlotte Hornets in regulation when it had the opportunity, but regrouped in overtime and pulled away for a 119-111 victory at the Spectrum Center.

It ended a 10-game losing streak and was the Bulls' first victory since a 123-120 win over the Hornets in Chicago on Nov. 17.

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"It shows a lot from this team," said Lauri Markkanen, who hit a crucial 3-pointer in overtime to give the Bulls a working margin. "We've had a couple tough losses lately and to be able to put them behind and pull this one off, it tells a lot about this team. Of course we wanted to go home a little earlier, but we just kept fighting."

The Bulls (4-20) outscored the Hornets 13-5 in the extra five minutes. They led 106-102 in the final minute of regulation but watched the Hornets tie it at 106-106 on two free throws by Kemba Walker with 5.3 seconds left. Chicago's Kris Dunn missed a 17-footer at the regulation buzzer.

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Markkanen's 3-pointer gave Chicago a 113-108 lead with 2:08 remaining in overtime and he tacked on two free throws with 1:04 remaining to give the Bulls their cushion.

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Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg continually talked about his team's resolve afterward.

"Our last week, we've had three opportunities where we very easily could have won games," Hoiberg said. "For our guys to be able to show the type resolve and continue to fight through the adversity at the end of the game was very important. Our guys have been doing a great job of learning from some of the things we've been doing. We did a better job of taking care of the ball and we did a pretty solid job of making the right play at the right time.

"The big thing is, it was important for our young guys to go out there and get a win for our confidence. It's an excellent team we beat with one of the best closers in the game in Kemba, and he made those plays again tonight, but our guys showed the fight and continued to go out there and play. It was a very important step for us."

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Markkanen led the Bulls with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Dunn had 20 points and 12 assists, Robin Lopez had 19 points and 10 rebounds, Justin Holiday scored 17 and David Nwaba scored 11.

"Lauri was unbelievable," Hoiberg said. "You could see he had very good bounce. To get 24 points and 12 rebounds and hit shots in the clutch shows that he's going to be a heckuva player in this league and a guy we can go to down the stretch. But everyone who played had a positive impact on the game. I thought everyone played well."

The Hornets (9-15) have now lost six of their last seven.

Dwight Howard had a monster game for Charlotte with 25 points, 20 rebounds and six blocked shots. Walker finished with 20 points but was just 5 of 16 from the field on a night when the Hornets shot just 40 percent. Marvin Williams had 17 points and nine rebounds, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 15 and Treveon Graham added 12.

"We just didn't make enough plays down the stretch," Williams said. "There were times in the game where I felt like we were making runs, pushing them to the brink, but we just couldn't put them away. They fought hard. They played hard. They got stops. They made shots and they won the game."

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Said associate head coach Stephen Silas: "Obviously it's a disappointing loss. I was proud of the guys for fighting back. We were down five and I told them we could come back and win the game if we got it to overtime. But then you could see those guys from Chicago could taste it.

"Dunn was very good. Holiday made some big shots. So we have to regroup and get ready for tomorrow. That's the NBA."

Flush.

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NOTES: Hornets coach Steve Clifford missed his third straight game because of illness, with associate head coach Stephen Silas again taking over. ... The Bulls won the only previous game between the teams this season, 123-120 in Chicago on Nov. 17. ... The Hornets were without F Frank Kaminsky (right ankle sprain) and F Cody Zeller (torn meniscus, left knee). They also lost G Jeremy Lamb in the first half with a shin contusion. ... The Bulls were without G Zach LaVine (left ACL) and G Cameron Payne (right foot). ... The Hornets sent G Julyan Stone to Greensboro of the G League on Friday. Stone had appeared in only two games with the Hornets all season. ... The Bulls were coming off a 98-96 loss at Indiana on Wednesday. They will return home to host New York on Saturday. ... The Hornets were playing the third game of a four-game homestand, after losing to Golden State 101-87 on Wednesday. They will host the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.

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