Bulls stunned, steamrolled by Kings

Bulls stunned, steamrolled by Kings

March 13, 2013, 11:00 pm
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SACRAMENTO -- In the end, it will simply be recorded as a loss in the standings, with no explanation of what actually happened to the Bulls on the court.

But Wednesday night’s 121-79 defeat at the hands of Sacramento at Sleep Train Arena was more than that. It was a debacle in which the Kings’ lead grew as large as 45 points winning margin, with the Bulls appearing void of the desire to play the team’s vaunted defense or even have the pride to not allow one of the league’s perennial cellar dwellers to dominate them.

While over the course of an 82-game season, lopsided losses happen to even the best of teams. But for a squad in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race, even an undermanned one, it was an embarrassing performance that will undoubtedly lead to questions about its motivation moving forward.

Carlos Boozer (21 points) got the visitors off to a quick start, though his offense was countered by Kings scoring guard Tyreke Evans (26 points).

Evans was the Kings’ unquestioned go-to guy for the evening as center DeMarcus Cousins missed the contest with an injury, avoiding a suspension for an elbow to the head of Milwaukee’s Mike Dunleavy and subsequent flagrant foul in the team’s previous outing.

Sacramento also got contributions from the likes of diminutive point guard Isaiah Thomas (22 points) -- for once, Nate Robinson (19 points), starting in place of the injured Kirk Hinrich for the fifth consecutive game, wasn’t at a height disadvantage going against his fellow Seattle native and protégé -- and power forward Patrick Patterson (14 points, nine rebounds), acquired at the trade deadline from Houston, to build a slim cushion.

The hosts extended their lead to double digits and the guests finished the opening period facing a 34-20 deficit, following a three-pointer to beat the buzzer by former Bulls swingman John Salmons.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau went to a lineup he used in a contest earlier this month -- fill-in starter Marco Belinelli and reserves Jimmy Butler, Marquis Teague, Nazr Mohammed and Vladimir Radmanovic; Daequan Cook would eventually replace Belinelli -- to start the second quarter, hoping to glean some energy from the unit.

But no matter the personnel on the court for the Bulls (35-29) things didn’t change as the Kings (23-43) built a 20-point lead early in the frame, much to Thibodeau’s dismay and the pleasure of the Sacramento crowd, which saw Evans continue to score at will and the Bulls unable to muster up even a semblance of cohesive offense.

Thibodeau went back to his regulars, but it didn’t make an immediate difference. Sacramento’s lead ballooned to 30 points, with instant-offense scorer Marcus Thornton coming off the bench to join in the fun -- even fan favorite Jimmer Fredette, widely considered an NBA bust after a stellar college career, had his moments for the Kings -- and the hosts’ gaudy shooting percentage doubling the Bulls’ at one point.

The visitors made a stab at making the game competitive toward the end of the first half, but with so much ground to make up, the Bulls trailed by the daunting score of 65-36 at the intermission in a puzzling performance that was extremely atypical for a Thibodeau-coached squad.

After the break, things didn’t improve for the visitors, as Sacramento’s onslaught continued, resulting in the home team extending its lead to 40 points before five minutes elapsed in the third quarter.

The backcourt of Evans and Thomas resumed its dominant play and with Boozer, Robinson and All-Star Luol Deng the only Bulls who displayed an ability to score, the game got even more out of hand.

More jarring than the Bulls’ ragged offensive play, something they experience periodically, was their lack of effort -- particularly on the defensive end of the floor. The lowly Kings suddenly appeared to be an offensive juggernaut against one of the most formidable defensive teams in the league.

Boozer continued to be productive for the Bulls and while the power forward and his teammates made a small dent in the blowout, it wasn’t close to being enough and heading into the final stanza, the visitors were behind by the unfathomable margin of 94-59, following a Robinson three-point play with 0.8 seconds left in the period.

Some progress was made at the outset of the fourth quarter, but Sacramento again regained its focus and with the likes of Fredette and other reserves battling it out with the Bulls’ second unit, the deficit grew to the 40-point range -- in the game's waning moments, the Kings took their biggest lead of the night -- in a repeat of earlier in the contest.

In what could be their final outing in Sacramento, the Bulls went out with a whimper, hoping that they can bounce back—and get some of their walking wounded back—before leaving California following Friday evening’s game against Golden State. This game doesn't figure to be easy as the Bulls have struggled against the Warriors in Oakland in recent years.