Bobcats-Bulls Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 30, 2012
If they hope to finally snap their lengthy skid, the Charlotte Bobcats must find a way to be more competitive on the road. For the Chicago Bulls, back-to-back games against two of the NBA's bottom feeders might be just what they needed to get back on track. The Bobcats will try to avoid their 19th consecutive loss on Monday night when they visit the Bulls, who have won five straight in the series. Charlotte (7-23) is one loss away from becoming the fourth team since 1986-87 to go winless in at least 16 games in a month. The Bobcats have already done it once, going 0-16 in April. Cleveland was 0-16 in January of 2010-11 and Vancouver went 0-17 in March of 1995-96. Charlotte, which hasn't won since Nov. 24 at Washington, is also closing in on its franchise-record 23-game losing streak at the end of the 2011-12 season. "Eventually we are our own solution," coach Mike Dunlap said. "We can't look external." The Bobcats appeared as though they might stop the ugly slide Saturday night building a 21-point first-half lead, but New Orleans rallied for a 98-95 win. Now the Bobcats hit the road, where they've been especially futile during their losing streak. They've dropped nine in a row there by an average of 17.4 points, compared to 9.3 at home over that span. The Bulls (16-12) are looking for their fourth home win in five games after halting a two-game losing streak on Saturday night with an 87-77 win over league-worst Washington. Chicago has won five of six against Charlotte at the United Center, including a 95-89 victory in January last season. Richard Hamilton missed one of Chicago's three wins against the Bobcats in 2011-12, but scored 20 or more points in his two games. Hamilton returned to action on Saturday, finishing with nine points in 15 minutes after missing 12 games because of a torn plantar fascia in his left foot. "We need his minutes. We need his shots. We need his points,'' coach Tom Thibodeau said. Marco Belinelli, who started during Hamilton's absence, made a smooth transition to the bench with 17 points against the Wizards. Belinelli has averaged 16.3 points over his last 12 contests. Despite battling an ankle injury, Luol Deng is expected to start after scoring 11 points in 37 minutes versus Washington. While the Bulls have averaged just 86.3 points in their last three, they should be able to find open looks against a Charlotte team that has allowed a league-worst 108.6 points in December. Hakim Warrick has given the Bobcats a boost since moving into the starting lineup, averaging 14.3 points and 7.7 rebounds in three games. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist expects to be ready after scratching the cornea of his right eye while diving for a loose ball on Saturday. The No. 2 overall pick had 22 points on 11-of-14 shooting, but had only four points in limited action following the injury. "The thing with MKG that is incredible, and typical, is that he just played through it," Dunlap said. Charlotte, though, has averaged just 90.7 points while shooting 39.5 percent from the field on the road since its last win. It doesn't get easier against the Bulls, who rank among the NBA leaders in defensive scoring (91.5) and field goal percentage (42.9).
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