The Chicago Bulls had the entire All-Star break to ponder their two-game losing streak, which they will try to halt Tuesday night when they visit the New Orleans Hornets.
The Bulls lost at home to the San Antonio Spurs and in Boston to the Celtics before the break. Most of the Bulls took time to relax and heal up, but two Chicago players had dates in Houston.
Luol Deng and Joakim Noah played in the All-Star game and both availed themselves nicely. Deng, who participated in his second All-Star game, netted 10 points in 17 minutes and Noah had eight points and 10 rebounds in his first appearance.
"I felt I might as well go out there and just give it everything I've got," said Noah. "I had a lot of fun. I haven't slept in three days. That's for real."
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau can't be too enthused about that last part. Things aren't easy for Chicago after the break. After Tuesday night, the Bulls host the Miami Heat on Thursday, visit the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday, then head to Oklahoma City to play the Thunder on Sunday.
The Bulls begin the final stretch 1 1/2 games behind the Indiana Pacers in the Central Division. They should receive a huge boost when former MVP Derrick Rose returns, although, according to Rose, that's not that close to happening.
The Hornets were playing good ball before the break. They won four of their last five and have four of their first five after the All-Star Game in their building.
New Orleans toppled Phoenix and Portland at home and Detroit and Atlanta on the road in the last two weeks. Eric Gordon missed two games in a row before the break with a sprained right hand, but he should be available Tuesday night.
First overall pick Anthony Davis has been impressive in his rookie season, averaging 12.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg and 1.87 bpg. He was on the winning Team Chuck squad at the Rising Stars Challenge and had 11 points.
"Next time I'm here, hopefully next year, hopefully can't wait to play in the All-Star Game on Sunday," Davis said.
Ryan Anderson, the league's leader in 3-pointers made, finished third in the 3-Point Contest.
The Hornets won this season's only matchup with the Bulls, an 89-82 victory on Nov. 3 in Chicago. The Bulls had won eight straight before that setback, but are unbeaten in the last four trips to the Big Easy.