Showing signs of improvement under interim coach Jim Boylan, the Chicago Bulls hope to put an end to their decade-long struggles against the Sacramento Kings when the teams meet at the United Center on Saturday.
Chicago (12-19) is coming off a 115-109 double-overtime loss to Portland on Thursday, dropping to 3-2 since Boylan assumed interim head-coaching duties after the firing of Scott Skiles. The Bulls' only other loss under Boylan was Monday's 112-110 overtime defeat at home to Orlando.
Chicago's offense has played much better since Boylan took over, averaging 106.2 points in its last five games after averaging 91.5 in its first 26 games - 25 under Skiles and one with assistant Pete Myers coaching the team.
"All in all, our guys are competing every night and that is all I can ask for right now," Boylan said. "If we continue to do that, good things will happen."
Ben Gordon has been a big reason for the offensive turnaround, averaging 29.8 points - including a 32-point effort Thursday - in five games since Boylan removed him from the starting lineup to become the team's sixth man. He has made 12 of 24 3-point attempts in that stretch.
Gordon struggled against Sacramento last season, though, scoring 12 total points in two games - both losses.
The Bulls have just one victory in 16 games against the Kings since Michael Jordon left Chicago after the 1997-98 season. The Bulls are 1-7 versus Sacramento at the United Center in that span, recording their only win in a 107-102 victory on Feb. 15, 2005.
Luol Deng, Chicago's second-leading scorer with 17.9 points per game, averaged 24.5 points and 8.5 rebounds against the Kings last season, but is questionable for this game. Deng left Thursday's game in the second quarter with tightness in his left Achilles' and managed only two points in 14 minutes.
The Bulls have lost four of their last five at the United Center overall. With a 6-9 home record, Chicago is one defeat away from matching its total number of home losses from last season, when it went an Eastern-Conference-best 31-10 on its own court.
The short-handed Kings (12-19) lost for the fifth time in six games Friday, falling 97-93 at Cleveland. Sacramento shot a season-high 55.3 percent from the floor, but turned the ball over 22 times.
"I still thought we gave them a gift,'' Kings coach Reggie Theus said. "We made turnovers against a team that didn't pressure us. I thought we gave the game away down the stretch.''
Sacramento, which is without injured starters Ron Artest (elbow surgery), Kevin Martin (strained groin) and Mike Bibby (left thumb surgery), saw its three-game road winning streak end against the Cavaliers.
The Kings have still won four of their last six games away from Arco Arena after starting the season 0-9 on the road. This contest concludes a three-game trip for the Kings, who begin a four-game homestand Tuesday against Orlando.
John Salmons scored 22 points Friday after totaling a career-high 32 in Wednesday's 107-97 win at New York. Salmons had just five points in the two games against the Bulls last season.
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