Bulls, Hornets still in playoff race

The race for eighth place in the Eastern Conference is a crowded field consisting teams slightly over .500, at .500 and under the break-even point.

The race also consists of teams in differing states in terms of the results.

The Chicago Bulls and Charlotte Hornets are examples of sub-500 teams attempting to stay afloat in the race for the East's last playoff spot and they will get together Monday night in Charlotte.

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Chicago (31-35) currently sits in 10th place and trails the Milwaukee Bucks by a 1 1/2 games. Milwaukee is on a six-game winning streak and Chicago is on an ugly five-game skid.

Four of the losses are by double-digits and Sunday's 100-80 loss in Boston was especially noticeable. In front of a national television audience, the Bulls scored nine points in the first quarter, missed their first 12 shots and 19 of their first 22 attempts.

Chicago trailed by as many as 29 points. It was a horrific performance, which featured Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade combining for 13 points on 6 of 22 shooting and a minus-49.

"We're still experimenting," Wade said. "As I said the other day, we're going to take some lumps. Some of them are going to be big lumps. Some of them going to be small lumps. Tonight was a big one."

The "lumps" during this losing streak are the following numbers for a team who is 20-28 since Dec. 2: 90.2 points per game, average margin of defeat by 14.4 points, 40.7 percent shooting, 16.8 turnovers, 30.7 percent from 3-point range. And defensively those figures are equally as bad with opponents scoring 104.6 on 45.4 percent shooting.

"Nobody likes to lose, so yeah I definitely think it's bothering a lot of people. Hell, we're in this damn thing together. We've got to figure it out. Ain't nobody going to come in here and show us a blueprint on how to win, we've got to go out there and make it happen."

The Hornets (29-37) are starting to make it happen in recent games, though they come off a 125-122 overtime home loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday.

From Jan. 23-Feb. 23, Charlotte dropped 12 of 13 games. Since a six-point overtime loss in Detroit, the Hornets are 5-4.

By going 6-16 in their last 22 games, the Hornets has dropped to 11th, two games behind Chicago and 3 1/2 behind Milwaukee.

The Hornets experienced a weekend of mixed results at home. After a 40-point rout of the Orlando Magic on Friday, the Pelicans could not contain Anthony Davis in a 125-122 overtime loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday in a game where they believed they took too long to get going.

"I think our biggest deal tonight was, I just feel like we waited too long to turn it on," Charlotte forward Marvin Williams said. "In the first half we didn't have the juice that we needed, and they came out ready to play. Anthony Davis made play after play for those guys, which is what he's been doing for those guys all year long. When you keep it close like that, anything can happen. Tonight they made the plays down the stretch that we just didn't."

Williams totaled 27 points and 10 rebounds Saturday. He is averaging 15.4 points and 9.7 rebounds over the last seven games while shooting 55.9 percent.

Kemba Walker collected 24 points and 12 assists. He is averaging 27 points since the All-Star break on 47.4 percent shooting.

Still none of those offensive numbers mean anything if Charlotte continues struggling to stop opponents. The Hornets allow 105.2 points per game and 109.8 in their last nine.

"Offensively, against a really good defensive team, we were great," Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. "I told the guys, what's disappointing is this: We do so many good things, but we just don't make enough plays. Tonight it was defensively. Davis was great, but we gave up so many. We're just not good enough with our base defense. We're not."

The home team has won the first two meetings.

The Hornets held Chicago to 39.6 percent shooting in a 103-91 win on Dec. 23. Butler scored 52 in Chicago's 118-111 win on Jan. 2 during a game that Wade sat out.