CHICAGO — The United Center was brimming with excitement and star power during All-Star Weekend. Just a few days later, the start of Thursday’s game against the Hornets had the empty feeling of a movie set after all the props and sets had been disassembled and cleared out.
The Bulls had talked this week about attacking their final 27 games with purpose and gusto, despite dealing with a rash of injured players. They lacked any spark until the third quarter, though, when they found their 3-point stroke and fought back from a 21-point deficit.
But the Bulls still suffered their seventh straight defeat — their longest skid of the season — in a 103-93 loss to the Hornets. Despite a short-lived rally, they never led.
The Bulls missed their first 17 3-point attempts, breaking the curse on a wide-open look from the left corner by Zach LaVine with 8 minutes, 41 seconds remaining in the third quarter. They took — and, of course, missed — all 15 first-half 3-point attempts on their way to a 60-44 halftime deficit.
(A fan made three 3-pointers during a timeout contest for a salt-in-the-wounds comparison.)
The Bulls then made 6 of 12 3-pointers in the third quarter, when they crept to within 70-68, and finished 7 of 31 (22.6%) on 3s. (They wound up shooting slightly worse on 3-pointers than the Hornets, who made only 8 of 28.)
Thaddeus Young propelled the Bulls’ comeback attempt with a season-high 22 points on 10 of 18 shooting to go with 11 rebounds.
Coby White missed his first six shots — including four 3-point attempts — before converting a layup with 9.4 seconds remaining in the second quarter. After earning pregame praise from coach Jim Boylen, the rookie finished with 12 points on 3 of 11 shooting, missing all five 3-point shots.
Despite the Bulls priding themselves on defense, the Hornets shot 52.4% in the first half and 47.3% for the game. The Bulls held Devonte’ Graham, who entered the game averaging 18.1 points, scoreless on 0-for-7 shooting.
The Bulls’ injury bay reads nearly as deep as its roster. They missed three starters and had only nine players available. Daniel Gafford returned to the frontcourt rotation for the first time since Feb. 2, checking in early in the first quarter ahead of Cristiano Felicio. Gafford fouled out in the fourth quarter with five points in 16 minutes.
The Bulls were without Otto Porter Jr. (left foot fracture) and Wendell Carter Jr. (right ankle sprain), who both began practicing again this week after long recoveries. Lauri Markkanen (pelvis) missed his 10th straight game.
Chandler Hutchison (shoulder) suffered a setback in his last game against the Wizards, and Boylen said Thursday he doesn’t expect the forward back soon.
“To say he’s day to day is probably a stretch,” Boylen said before the game.
The Bulls also were without Kris Dunn, who it was announced Thursday needs 4-6 more weeks before another examination on the MCL sprain he suffered Jan. 31.
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