It wasn’t the most brilliant effort, but the Bulls Monday finally got brilliance late in the game from their stars as Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler combined for vital late game plays to save a 109-102 victory over the Sacramento Kings.
It was the Bulls third consecutive victory on this vital home stand and gave the Bulls a 36-33 record. The Kings fell to 27-43.
The Bulls were led by Rose and Taj Gibson with 18 points. Doug McDermott had 16 with four three pointers and Butler had 11 points, eight assists and five steals. Rose also had five rebounds and four assists. DeMarcus Cousins had 19 points, 18 rebounds and eight turnovers for the Kings.
E’Twaun Moore remained out with his hamstring strain, but the Bulls got some reinforcements with the return of Pau Gasol from knee swelling. It also made it just the second time this season the primary starting five of Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Taj Gibson and Gasol were playing together. The Bulls didn’t come out with much vigor this time, satisfied to walk back and forth with the Kings early. The Bulls tried from the start to get going the slumping Mike Dunleavy, who was three of his last 16 threes coming in. He missed his first two in the first moments as the Bulls took a 15-14 lead midway through the first quarter thanks to three steals from Butler. McDermott then came in for Dunleavy and had no trouble making shots, hitting all three of his attempts as the Bulls led 30-26 after one.
The reserves have done well for the Bulls lately, though weren’t making shots to start the second quarter. But neither were the Kings, who, nevertheless, pulled within 37-36. Bobby Portis then scored on a nice pass from McDermott on the run and then McDermott made his fourth three pointer for a 43-38 Bulls lead with just under five minutes left in the half. The highlight of the half was a terrific late possession in which the Bulls made four cross court passes and an inside pass leading to a Gibson dunk and 59-51 halftime lead. Gibson had 14 points in the half while Butler had five of the Bulls 15 assists and four steals.
The third quarter for the Bulls was a study in indifference as they began walking the ball out of the backcourt, lacking the activity of the first half. The Kings, similarly, seemed disinterested with a slow start to the quarter. But the Bulls scored one field goal in the first three minutes, enabling the Kings to stay close enough. It was 69-57 Bulls midway through the third quarter as the Bulls continued to shoot isolation jumpers. The Kings then got going pushing the ball and closed within 82-81 going into the fourth quarter with the Bulls having squandered most of a 12-point lead.
The Kings then took advantage of questionable shot selection by the Bulls reserves to take an 89-86 lead about three minutes into the fourth quarter. It wasn’t looking good for the Bulls with about six minutes left as the Kings scored in three straight possessions for a 95-90 lead. But then it was Rose and Butler to the rescue, Rose making jumpers and Butler going hard to save misses and hit Dunleavy on wing for a big three pointer with about 90 seconds left for a 105-97 lead.