by Michael Martinez
Photo credit (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
SACRAMENTO- A Chicago Bulls team without All Star Jimmy Butler gives opponents a much better chance at winning, or at least competiting. Butler sat out Wednesday night’s ball game with left knee tendinitis. The Kings did do a good job of sticking around with the Bulls, but allowed E’Twaun Moore to tear up the defense as if he was Butler.
Sacramento once again allowed a player who never really impacts games to get a career high in points. The Kings had a lot of sloppy play and their defense was not consistently strong enough to ever allow them to over come the Bulls. Missed free throws cost the Kings as well especially when it counted. Even with another monster game from DeMarcus Cousins, who was honored as an All Star prior to the game, Sacramento could not overcome the Bulls. The Kings (21-27) lost to the Bulls (27-21), 107-102, in a tightly contested match up in Sacramento at Sleep Train Arena.
The Kings lacked urgency to start the game. Sacramento looked slow and the Bulls took advantage, especially Moore. Moore scored ten of Chicago’s first 13 points causing Sacramento to take a timeout at the 7:02 mark. Moore would finish the quarter with 13 points, a point shy of his career high.
Marco Belinelli’s shot started to look better, scoring six points in the quarter, as he got another start. The Kings were able to hang around in the quarter in big part to DeMarcus Cousins, who scored eight points in a row later in the quarter causing the Bulls to call a timeout with Chicago up by eight. The Kings’ defense caused five turnovers, but could not find a way to stop the Bulls from scoring as Chicago shot 57.1% from the field. The Bulls did an excellent job behind the three-point line, going six for eight.
The Bulls took advantage of the Kings’ four turnovers with nine points off those turnovers. Allowing the Bulls to shoot at a high percentage had the Kings down, 35-24, after one quarter of play. For the fifth straight game, the Kings allowed their opponent to score 30 or more points in the first quarter.
“It’s a nightmare,” said Coach George Karl. “I’ve never had this many games on your home court come out flat.”
Coming off of a sluggish first quarter, Darren Collison helped pick up the pace for Sacramento. Off the bench, Collison finished the half with 13 points, eight of those from the second quarter. The Kings’ defense did a better job against the Bulls’ offense and found some of their own as well.
With 4:35 left in the second quarter, Omri Casspi and Bobby Portis received a technical foul each after the pair were yapping at one another over a prior play.
Down by four, Sacramento looked to keep the game close but the Bulls went on a 6-0 run to go up by ten as Chicago continued their good ball movement with a little under three minutes to play in the half.
Belinelli scored six more points in the second quarter. Belinelli hit two three-pointers for a total of 12 points in the half. Belinelli’s threes helped keep the Kings within reach with one of those threes coming from a Cousins’ screen and put the score at 60-57. Belinelli’s three would be the last field goal of the half with the Bulls leading the Kings, 60-57 after one half of play.
Omri Casspi and Bobby Portis received a double technical after the pair were yapping at one another over a prior play.
Moore eclipsed his prior career high of 14 points with 15 in the first half for a halftime high. Cousins scored 14 points for a team high. Chicago had ten second chance points in the first half, as they out rebounded the Kings, 26-18. Chicago crashed the boards much harder than the Kings, but with 28 points in the paint Sacramento kept it close.
The Kings started the third quarter off with a 5-0 run, giving them their first lead since early in the first quarter. But the Bulls followed it up with a 5-0 run of their own. The Kings got to 66 points, which was later changed to 64 as a Rudy Gay field goal was changed to a shot clock violation. After that point, Sacramento turned the ball over on five straight possessions, but luckily the Bulls did not do so well either. Throughout the quarter, Sacramento inched closer and closer, but the eight third quarter turnovers never gave them a chance to regain the lead.
Both teams did very little offensively, with Chicago scoring 20 and Sacramento scoring 18. The Kings did a much better job of rebounding the ball with four offensive boards and 14 total in the quarter. Gay scored six points on 3-6 shooting for a total of ten, looking much better in the third quarter after foul trouble in the first half.
Moore continued to play well out of the break with seven points in the third. Cousins also had a big quarter with eight points, as him and Moore tied for a game high with 22 points. After a lot of careless basketball, the Bulls still maintained their lead, 80-75 through three.
The fourth quarter came down to the wire although the Bulls started out the quarter on a 6-0 run. Again, the Kings were able to stay in the game and went up by as many as ten in the quarter. With a little over three and a half minutes to play, Chicago was up 99-90 over the Kings. But Belinelli’s improved shooting came in clutch for Sacramento as they got the lead down to four, 105-101, after he hit a three pointer while getting fouled.
Belinelli missed the free throw, but Cousins grabbed the board and was fouled. Cousins only made one free throw to cut Chicago’s lead to three with 45 seconds in the game. Sacramento kept getting stops and had possession down three with 17.9 seconds.
Out of a timeout, the Kings drew up a play to get Cousins the ball inside for a quick two, but Boogie could not convert on two separate tries. The Kings fouled Moore with 10.4 seconds left and the game seemed basically over. However, Moore missed both free throws and Sacramento got the rebound with nine seconds remaining. Cousins got fouled and missed the first free throw, letting out great frustration afterwards. Boogie missed the second shot on purpose and got called for a lane violation.
Pau Gasol, who finished with 16 points and 13 boards, made two free throws to close out the game and give the Bulls the victory, 107-102. Rudy Gay fouled out by fouling Gasol.
Derrick Rose had a solid fourth quarter with eight points, totaling 21 points and adding nine assists with six boards. Moore finished with a career high 24 points as he filled the shoes of Butler tonight.
Cousins added another double double on the season, 30 points and 11 rebounds, finishing with a game high. Cousins admitted to being banged up after a very physical game, but is still ready to go. Belinelli scored 18 points for Sacramento, 7-14 from the field.
Off the bench, Collison scored 19 points but did not see much playing time in the second half. Rajon Rondo added nine assists for the Kings, who continue to score well in the paint, but have lacked good starts in games.
The defense got better, but Chicago shot 52.4% from the behind the arc, which was a big difference maker as well as their 19 fast break points. Both teams finished with 17 turnovers in a very sloppy game.
“Starts. Turnovers hurt us tonight, transition defense hurt us tonight,” Cousins said.
The Kings have now lost five of their last six games and are looking for answers with four games left before the All Star break.
“I would probably say our only pattern is our effort coming out early on in games. We’ve got to find a way to improve that,” Cousins said when asked about characteristics in their losses.
The Kings, now 21-28, will need to practice what they preach heading into the last four games to gain momentum as they near the break. On Friday, Sacramento will take on the Brooklyn Nets on the road as they look to get the roller coaster season back in their favor with some much needed road wins.
“We’ve got to get three, we have to,” Cousins said.