NEW ORLEANS—Little has gone according to plan in this young Bulls season.
Linton Johnson stole Trenton Hassell's spot on a supposedly set roster. Four blowout losses flew in the face of preseason playoff optimism.
Jalen Rose and Jamal Crawford in the starting lineup.
In an effort to shake up his lethargic team whose losses have been by an average of 27 points, Cartwright started Kirk Hinrich and Eddie Robinson against Tim Floyd's five.
And the Bulls responded with a passionate effort in a 109-106 victory over the Eastern Conference-leading Hornets.
Crawford blocked Baron Davis' shot with 26.6 seconds left and Hinrich split a pair of free throws with 14.2 seconds to play for a 109-106 lead. Rose then blocked David Wesley's three-pointer at the buzzer.
Rose responded with 34 points as the Bulls shot an NBA-season-high 59.4 percent. But an upset Rose afterward deemed himself "a scapegoat" and felt disrespected by Cartwright's move.
Donyell Marshall shook off a bruised left leg to score 22 points in 44 minutes. And Crawford added 14 points and six assists.
Davis' 35 points and 13 assists led New Orleans.
Both Crawford and Rose played the entire fourth quarter, when the Bulls led by as many as 13 points. But Crawford, like Rose, was upset that he didn't start and said, "The writing is on the wall" in reference to his future with the Bulls.
Rose's demotion sent the biggest shockwaves, prompting a look of disbelief from Davis when the two chatted briefly during pregame warmups.
The nine-year veteran had started 323 straight games, including 118 with the Bulls, and hadn't come off the bench since May 4, 1999, when he played for Indiana.
"That first group is not giving us anything," Cartwright said. "It's not the same focus. And if they're not going to give it to us, we'll go somewhere else. Simple as that. And we'll keep searching until we find a group that is going to get us out of the gates."
The move paid dividends right away as Robinson and Gill supplied first-quarter energy and Crawford and Rose entered focused and fired up. Gill had eight of his 12 points in the first quarter.
Crawford hit his first two shots, including a halfcourt heave at the first-quarter buzzer. Rose hit his first six shots and had 15 points by halftime, when the Bulls led 54-53.
Hinrich, playing just his second NBA game, turned the ball over nine times in 27 minutes.
Crawford entered with team-high averages of 17.2 points and five assists. He also entered having taken 19 more shots than anyone on the team.
"Yeah, definitely, I'm shocked," Crawford said. "It can't be just one reason why we're losing. It has to be a combination of things. It's not like I go out there thinking of leading the team in scoring."
Cartwright prefers his point guards to be distributors first.
"One individual is not more important than this team," Cartwright said. "We have to do whatever we have to do as coaches to win basketball games. It's not personal against anybody. Someone has to sacrifice some shots."
The Hornets were trying to avoid an emotional letdown after beating the Lakers on Friday.
The Bulls dealt with their emotional letdown by playing well without Tyson Chandler, who remained in Chicago. An MRI test on his sore back turned up nothing and Chandler expects to play Monday.
Stay tuned for the starting lineup.