Hornets tasked with ending skid vs. Bulls

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Charlotte Hornets will try to salvage a game on this homestand Friday night, but it won't be an easy task as the Chicago Bulls stop by Time Warner Cable Arena.

The Hornets dropped both games of this stay after a five-game winning streak. The losses proved costly as Charlotte dropped to ninth in the Eastern Conference standings, a half-game behind the Miami Heat.

The Bulls are in a battle themselves, just higher up the playoff pecking order. Chicago is 1 1/2 games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers for Central Division supremacy and the No. 2 seed in the conference.

The Bulls started their three-game road trip, which ends Sunday in Oklahoma City, with a 104-95 overtime win against the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night.

Aaron Brooks scored a season-high 31 points and Pau Gasol added 27 points and 16 rebounds to lead Chicago. Brooks knocked down a game-tying 3-pointer with 33.2 seconds remaining in regulation and the Bulls pulled away in the extra session.

Nikola Mirotic posted 16 points, 12 boards and five assists for the Bulls, who snapped a three-game losing streak.

"They're a tough matchup," said Gasol. "We just got done playing four games in five nights ... but we got it done."

The Sixers erased a 14-point fourth quarter deficit and Ish Smith sunk a pair of foul shots for a 90-89 edge with 56.8 ticks left in regulation. Jerami Grant hit two foul shots with 43 seconds on the clock for a three-point cushion.

Brooks then knocked down a contested, leaning right corner triple to tie the game. Luc Mbah a Moute missed a jumper in the waning moments of the period.

Brooks drove in for a layup before a pair of Gasol baskets quickly staked the Bulls to a six-point advantage in overtime and they cruised to the victory from there.

The Hornets fell to the Washington Wizards and Sacramento Kings on this residency. Sacramento left Charlotte Wednesday with a 113-106 victory, but the bigger loss for the Hornets didn't come in the record book.

Center Al Jefferson left in the third quarter with a calf injury and didn't return. MRI results came back negative, which is good, but Jefferson is expected to miss Friday's contest with the Bulls.

"When you start messing with the knees, stuff like that, you kind of go into panic mode," Jefferson said. "So it's good to see that MRI come back negative."

Jefferson's running mate up front, Cody Zeller, is questionable with a strained shoulder.

Point guard Kemba Walker returned to action Wednesday for the Hornets after missing 18 games due to knee surgery. He scored six points in 16 minutes as he shakes the rust off his game.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist ended with 23 points and nine boards for the Hornets. Mo Williams contributed 20 points and eight assists, Gerald Henderson added 17 points and 11 assists and Marvin Williams scored 13 points.

The two teams split a pair of meetings this season with the visitor prevailing. They'll meet again in 10 days at the United Center, but the Bulls have won 11 of the last 14 encounters and are 6-1 in their last seven trips to Charlotte.