The Bulls Wednesday climbed back up on the throne of victory with a 107-102 victory over the Sacramento Kings.
It was a narrow escape in the end after the Bulls led 105-98 with 1:32 left as E’Twaun Moore after a career high 24 points fouled Marco Bellinelli making a three pointer and then missed two free throws with nine seconds left with a chance to clinch the game.
But the Bulls survived a pair of DeMarcus Cousins misses and a pair of Cousins missed free throws to even their record at 2-2 on this road trip and go to 27-21 for the season.
Moore’s 24 points led the Bulls while Derrick Rose had 21 points and nine assists but seven turnovers while Pau Gasol had 16 points and 13 rebounds with six turnovers. But the Bulls had a rare unselfish game with versatile ball movement with 26 assists and were 11 of 21 on threes as they ran into good shots instead of standing around so much and forcing shots.
Sacramento fell to 21-28 as Cousins had 30 points and 11 rebounds and walked off the court in his usual rage yelling something at the Bulls bench.
The Bulls got the new just before game time that Jimmy Butler would miss his first game of the season with a sore knee. Mike Dunleavy joined the team from D-league practices and could play Friday in Denver while Nikola Mirotic had a followup appendix procedure and his return remains uncertain. Joakim Noah is out for the season after shoulder surgery. But the Bulls came into the game quickly and impressively behind E’Twaun Moore, starting at shooting guard for Butler and Tony Snell back at small forward. Moore, whose career high is 19 points, scored the Bulls first seven points and 13 of the Bulls first 18 as the Bulls accelerated to a 22-10 start.
The Bulls were pushing the ball and playing with electric pace as well as they have all season with Derrick Rose adding six first quarter assists as the Bulls took a 34-25 lead on 57.1 percent shooting. The Bulls slowed some to start the second quarter with Rose sitting as the Kings pulled within 45-41. The Kings got a boost from the shooting of former Bull Marco Belinelli and backup guard Darren Collison.
With Rose and Gasol back in, the Bulls pulled ahead 57-47 as the Bulls wings finally ran as Snell and Doug McDermott got ahead of the defense for a slam dunk and pullup jumper in transition, respectively. But Bellinelli and DeMarcus Cousins shot the Kings back within 60-57 at halftime. Moore had 15 at the half and Rose had nine points and eight assists as the Bulls were eight of 13 on threes at halftime with a pair for Gasol. The Kings were shooting 53 percent.
The Bulls had a rough third quarter hanging onto the ball, which enabled the Kings to grab a 62-60 lead early in the third quarter. The Bulls got some good ball movement from Rose and Moore to retake the lead, though the teams then combined for turnovers in a brutal stretch of seven consecutive possessions. Moore then completed passing his previous career high with three scores around a Rose runner that gave the Bulls some breathing room before the Kings pulled within 80-75 after three quarters. Moore had 22 points through three quarters.
The Bulls got a 91-82 lead on a McDermott dunk on a fancy Taj Gibson bounce pass and then 93-83 with 6:50 left on a Gasol elbow jumper. Though Cousins shot the ball well, Gibson played excellent defense against the much bigger man.