Lonzo Ball has faced his brother LaMelo three times in the NBA, winning twice. It’s the only thing that matters to him.
“I play to win. I’m still the big brother at the end of the day,” said Lonzo Ball, “and I have to stack my wins.”
The Chicago Bulls won the Ball Brothers’ final battle, on a stellar performance by Nikola Vucevic in a 133-119 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Monday night.
Chicago hit a season-high 59.6% on the field with five players scoring in double digits. Vucevic recorded 30 points, his best record of the season, and 14 rebounds. DeMar DeRozan scored 28 points and Zach LaVine, a game time decision due to illness, finished with 25.
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With Patriarch LaVar Ball looking on and wearing a black hat that read “I told you so,” Lonzo Ball helped the Bulls get back on track after losing three of four. He had 16 points and eight assists, and LaMelo Ball had 18 points and 13 assists.
“I mean we’ve been talking about the NBA since we were kids,” LaMelo said. “Just go out there and play against him, still a dream come true, for real.”
The United Center crowd of 21,366 roared whenever the Ball brothers clashed from the start. But there was little sign of Lonzo or LaMelo they were babysitting anyone they had babysat since they were kids.
“Obviously we’re brothers and that’s all the love off the pitch,” Lonzo Ball said. “But in the field, like I said, he has a job to do, I have a job to do.”
Terry Rozier scored 31 points and Gordon Hayward had 22 for the Hornets, who fell to 0-2 on their four-game trip.
“Disappointed tonight in our defense,” Charlotte coach James Borrego said. “We just need to fix it.”
Charlotte reduced a 23-point deficit to four on Hayward’s Cup layup with 7:31 left, but Chicago responded with a 9-0 run.
Vucevic started the decisive stretch with a layup. The 6-foot-10 center also went 6-for-6 on a 3-point range in his most defining game of the season – getting back into shape after struggling for his comeback from COVID-19.
He’s averaged 12.3 points on 42% shots in his previous three games.
“I felt like I was picking up my pace and then I got COVID and then I had to sit down,” Vucevic said. “But obviously tonight was a good game for me. It felt good to take some shots.”
The Ball brothers were hampered by faults in the second quarter. But Lonzo Ball got the better of his brother with 5:06 to go, blocking his shot at the edge which led to a Javonte Green slam on the other end.
The Bulls closed the half with a 9-0 run for a 69-58 lead at the break. LaVine found Vucevic for a 3 point sideways buzzer.
Hornets: Reserve forward Cody Martin has been sidelined by illness. … C Mason Plumlee missed his third straight game with a strained right calf.
Bulls: F Patrick Williams (left wrist) has talked about taking classes at Florida State to prepare for his degree, coach Billy Donovan said. “I think that stuff is important, but when he’s in our team I think he was in a good mood,” Donovan said. Williams, 20, was injured in a loss to the Knicks on Oct. 28 and is expected to be out for four to six months. … The Bulls swept away their three-game streak against the Hornets last season.
Hornets: At the Milwaukee Bucks Wednesday night. This is the first meeting of the teams this season.
Bulls: At the New York Knicks Thursday night. The teams shared their first two meetings, both in Chicago.