Bulls fall to Kings, 104-98

The Bulls lost a 21-point first half lead to the last place team in the Western Conference, the Sacramento Kings, losing 104-98 and being swept on their road trip.

It was the Bulls' seventh consecutive loss as they dropped to 18-35. The Kings are 17-36.

The Bulls wasted a terrific 28-9 first quarter start and Zach LaVine’s best game of his comeback and looked like domination with a 32-11 second quarter lead. But the Kings shocked the Bulls with a 14-3 run to start the third quarter and then ended the game with 22-11 run in the last seven minutes.

LaVine had 27 points, his third consecutive game of at least 20 points. Justin Holiday had 20 points. Bobby Portis had 18 points and 14 rebounds. Denzel Valentine had 11 and Paul Zipser 10.

The Bulls remained without Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen. Markkanen was supposed to meet the team in Sacramento, but he encountered weather travel problems out of Chicago after the birth of his first child. Dunn remains in the league concussion protection. Portis got the start in place of Paul Zipser in an attempt to inject some energy into the lineup with a series of poor first quarters. It was a good start for the Bulls, though as much due to the Kings’ inefficiency as the Kings missed their first 10 shots, darting a mock standing ovation from the home fans with their first basket with 6:04 left in the first quarter. The Bulls had scored 10 points by then, though somewhat inefficient as well, missing seven of their first nine shots. But Holiday had his shot going from three with 11 first quarter points. The Kings would set a season low nine points in the quarter on four of 20 shooting and one of 10 on threes. That enabled the Bulls to lead 28-9 with a 13-3 close to the quarter after the 10-0 start. The Kings are one of those teams playing for losses, starting most of their young players with the better veterans coming off the bench. So the Kings made some progress in the second quarter with George Hill and Garrett Temple in getting within 43-32. In that progression, Robin Lopez was ejected after being upset about the lack of a foul call. Lopez drew a second technical in succession after refusing to walk away from the official and was restrained by teammates. Lopez  had two points and one rebound in 13 minutes. It was then left to LaVine, who had his most explosive stretch in his return with 10 second quarter points culminated by a phenomenal driving slam dunk from the left wing, rising well over 6-9 JaKarr Sampson for the intense throw down for a three-point play. That enabled the Bulls to lead 55-41 at halftime. The Bulls also were 14 of 17 at the free throw line, showing more resolve to the basket. LaVine had 17 points at halftime and the Bulls were seven of 16 on threes.

So having healed their first quarter woes, the Bulls found the third quarter troublesome. The Kings becoming more active opened the third quarter with a 14-3 run to get immediately competitive. Cristiano Felicio started for Lopez, but he and Portis were off target with the Kings pushing the pace to finally tie the game at 63 with 6:38 left, a recovery from a 21-point deficit. The Bulls tried going to LaVine, who was drawing double teams as the Kings inched ahead 69-68 to take their first lead of the game with 3:47 left in the third quarter. The Bulls responded with six straight points and held onto a 79-77 lead through three quarters. The Bulls got a pair of crucial offensive rebounds from Felicio that led to threes from LaVine and Zipser that enabled the Bulls to hold off Sacramento and lead 87-82 with 7:06 left in the game. The Kings then stunned the Bulls out of a timeout with seven straight points for the 89-87 lead with Buddy Hield jumpers. A one-sided game for the Bulls in the first half became an entertaining back and forth in the fourth quarter with the teams exchanging leads and then a Field three on an offensive rebound giving the Kings a 96-93 lead with 1:33 left in the game. The Bulls tied the game on a Portis three and then the Kings made the pivotal play on a Bogdan Bogdanovic three as the 24-second clock expired for a 99-96 lead with 52 seconds left. LaVine and Portis then missed threes and the Kings beat a trap with a Willie Cauley-Stein dunk for a 101-96 lead with 14 seconds left.