CHICAGO -- It didn't matter to Robin Lopez or the rest of the Hornets that Anthony Davis was back in New Orleans.
They weren't dwelling on it. Instead, they were dealing with it.
Greivis Vasquez scored 18 points and the balanced Hornets beat the Chicago Bulls 89-82 on Saturday night even though they were missing the No. 1 draft pick.
"That's the big thing about a team game," Lopez said. "Everybody came together and everybody stepped it up."
Lopez and Jason Smith scored 16 apiece. Ryan Anderson added 12 points and 13 rebounds, and the Hornets hit 20 of 23 free throws to get the win even though Davis was nursing a mild concussion.
Luol Deng had 19 points and eight rebounds for Chicago. Nate Robinson scored 15, and Marco Belinelli added 13 against his former team, but the Bulls shot 33 per cent in this one after hitting just under 64 per cent of their shots the previous night in an easy win over Cleveland. It was a particularly rough night for Richard Hamilton and Carlos Boozer, who shot a combined 3 for 18 and each finished with four points after scoring 19 apiece against the Cavaliers.
The Hornets trailed by seven in the second quarter and led by 10 in the third but had to hang on down the stretch, with Robinson making it as tough as he could on them.
He scored all but four of his points in the fourth to help keep the Bulls in it, but they ultimately came up short.
His jumper with 1:16 left made it 81-77, and Chicago had a chance to make it a one-possession game after Taj Gibson blocked Smith. Instead, Belinelli missed a 3.
Smith hit two free throws with 53.5 seconds left. Roger Mason added two more to make it 85-77, and the Hornets prevailed because they didn't back down without their prized rookie.
"We don't get a lot of credit or notoriety for being a physical team, but that's something we've prided ourselves on since I've been here, was to play a physical style of basketball, legally," coach Monty Williams said. "I don't think we out-worked them, I just think the ball came our way a few times and it was just a major battle in that paint. Anytime you play against Chicago, a team that (Tom Thibodeau) is gonna coach, you know you're gonna play a team that is gonna hit you right in the mouth."
He had to be feeling better after this one. Before the game, though, he made it clear he wasn't thrilled with the NBA.
While Davis was back in New Orleans being examined after taking an inadvertent elbow to the head from teammate Austin Rivers in the first half of Friday's win over Utah, Williams was unloading.
He blasted the NBA's protocols for determining when a player can return from a concussion before this game, saying, "Now, they treat everybody like they have white gloves and pink drawers and it's getting old. It's just the way the league is now."
He had to like the way his team stepped up even though Davis was out.
"You see how guys came in with high motors, understood that this is their time to get their minutes," Chicago's Taj Gibson said. "This league is all about guys stepping up. You saw Robin Lopez and Ryan Anderson, guys coming in with a high motor, gaining confidence early and playing well."
The Bulls also saw some missed opportunities, particularly near the rim. When they drove, Thibodeau said he saw "a lot of flipping instead of attacking," but it wasn't just that. He saw players not hustling back on defence after a miss, and that really bothered him.
"The thing that bothered me was our approach to defensive transition," he said. "When you're not shooting well, you can't allow that to sap your energy in terms of getting back, setting your defence."
Notes: When he was an assistant in Boston, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau could tell big things were in store for Doc Rivers' son Austin. "In Boston, he was around a lot," Thibodeau said. "He had a lot of confidence and poise, very comfortable being on the floor playing against pros even when he was in high school. He's been around the pro game his whole life. I think he's going to be a terrific player." Rivers believed Thibodeau would be a successful head coach, and in his first two years, the Bulls captured the top seed in the Eastern Conference. "It's funny, before he became a head coach, my dad was always talking like he's gonna be a great coach. It was almost like my dad and him coached. It wasn't just my dad. Coach Tom was.you look at their (Boston) defence and how it went up once he got there, and look what he's done with Chicago. I know he's gonna have a tough defensive scheme for me and everyone else tonight." ... The Hornets had dropped eight straight to Chicago.