The Chicago Bulls are on their third two-game winning streak of the season and look for their first three-game run as they visit the Charlotte Hornets on Friday. The Hornets have dropped three in a row but are expected to get back starting center Cody Zeller from injury. Chicago lists rookie Patrick Williams as probable but another former lottery pick, power forward/center Wendell Carter Jr., is likely out with a thigh bruise. Charlotte is a 3.5-point favorite on the William Hill Sportsbook NBA odds.
Zeller has missed about a month with a broken left hand (non-shooting) suffered in the season opener but should be in the lineup – albeit having his minutes limited and perhaps coming off the bench. The Hornets are 6-7 without Zeller in the lineup. He's limited offensively but is a solid defender and rebounder. Last season, he averaged 11.1 points (52.4 percent shooting) and 7.1 rebounds in about 23 minutes per game.
Bismack Biyombo has been starting in Zeller's spot and is even more offensively limited (i.e., he only scores on put-backs). The Hornets are last in the NBA in defensive-rebounding percentage in part because they have been playing a lot of small-ball with undersized PJ Washington at center and Miles Bridges at power forward when Biyombo isn't out there.
The Bulls' Carter was injured during practice Wednesday on a collision with teammate Denzel Valentine and is officially doubtful but did travel to Charlotte. The No. 7 overall pick in the 2018 draft is averaging 12.8 points and 8.0 rebounds per game but has been very injury-prone in his career. Daniel Gafford could start in his spot.
Friday will be a matchup between the No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 draft in Charlotte's LaMelo Ball and Chicago's Williams, who went No. 4. Had the Hornets not taken Ball, most believe the Bulls would have. Williams is dealing with some hip soreness that caused him to miss Monday's win over Houston but is listed as probable. The raw 19-year-old out of Florida State is averaging 10.2 points and 3.8 rebounds, starting all 13 of his games.
It's the first meeting of the season between the Hornets and Bulls. Charlotte won three of four last year and has covered the spread six in a row in the series.
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