A pair of rebuilding teams squared off late Monday night in Sacramento, and at the start of the game it appeared someone gave the Kings a pep talk about the importance of losing.
The Chicago Bulls' defense held the Kings scoreless for nearly six minutes at the start of the game and led 28-9 after the first quarter. But the rest of the night didn't go as well for the Bulls, as Sacramento rallied for a 104-98 victory and the Bulls' losing streak hit seven games.
Bogdan Bogdanovich broke open a tie game by knocking down a 3-pointer with 52.4 seconds left. Zach LaVine and Bobby Portis missed 3-pointers that could have tied the score, and the Kings threw it ahead to Willie Cauley-Stein for a dunk that put Sacramento up by 5.
LaVine led the Bulls with 27 points. He closed the second quarter with the best dunk of his comeback, a power slam over 6-foot-9 Kings forward JaKarr Sampson that went for a 3-point play. Justin Holiday added 20 points, while Portis had 18 points and 14 rebounds.
After the Kings missed their first 10 shots, rookie Justin Jackson finally got Sacramento on the board with a give-and-go lay-in at the 6:04 mark of the first quarter. The Bulls let the Kings off the hook, scoring just 10 points during the opening drought.
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg shuffled the starting lineup, giving Portis his first start of the season at power forward and benching Paul Zipser, who scored a season-high 16 points against the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday.
Two players obtained from New Orleans in the Nikola Mirotic trade, center Omer Asik and point guard Jameer Nelson, were on the bench and in uniform for this game. Neither player saw action Monday.
Robin Lopez created an opening at center when he collected a pair of technical fouls for arguing with the referees and got himself ejected at the 4:21 mark of the second quarter.
Before the game, Hoiberg provided updates on the missing Bulls.
Lauri Markkanen was planning to join the Bulls for this game after missing a few days for the birth of his first child. But when his flight was canceled Sunday morning, the team decided he should just stay home.
Hoiberg said Markkanen got a good workout in Monday morning and probably will practice with the Windy City Bulls on Tuesday. The Bulls will have three days off before the Jimmy Butler reunion game Friday at the United Center against Minnesota.
Hoiberg said Kris Dunn has progressed to the point where he is now in "return to play" protocol. Dunn has missed eight games since suffering a concussion against Golden State on Jan. 17.
Hoiberg wasn't ready to predict when Dunn might be able to return. The Bulls have four home games before the all-star break begins next week.
"The important thing is he's starting to feel better," Hoiberg said, according to bulls.com. "It's almost three weeks since he's been out."
Meanwhile, point guard Cameron Payne, who has yet to play this season while recovering from foot surgery, officially was sent down to the Windy City Bulls. He will practice with the G-League team, maybe play in some games, and the Bulls hope he will be ready to go after the break.
The Bulls practiced Sunday at USC, then flew to Sacramento and had a Super Bowl watching party. Based on social-media accounts, Philadelphia native Ryan Arcidiacono was the most emotionally invested person at the party.
"To see Arch, the joy (the Eagles victory) brought him, was a lot of fun," Hoiberg said.
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