Reserves push Chicago Bulls toward win in Sacramento
A solid performance by the Bulls' bench in the first half went a long way toward salvaging the three-game road trip.
The Bulls trailed by 11 in the first quarter, led by 19 in the third and barely survived at the end to post a 113-106 victory Monday night at Sacramento.
The Kings had one chance to take the lead, but Buddy Hield missed a quick 3-pointer with just under three minutes left. Lauri Markkanen was aggressive against mismatches and hit 4 free throws on the next two possessions, then Zach LaVine drained a 3-pointer off a pass from Kris Dunn to make it 107-100 with 1:15 left.
LaVine led the way with 28 points, while Markkanen added 20 and Wendell Carter Jr. grabbed 10 rebounds. Hield led the Kings with 26 points.
The Bulls (7-14) produced a rare advantage at the 3-point line. They hit 16 of 37 attempts (43.2 percent), compared to Sacramento's 9-for-33.
The Bulls got off to another sluggish start. Sacramento's defense was sagging into the paint and disrespecting the Bulls' outside shooter. The Kings pulled out to an early 23-12 advantage.
When Bulls coach Jim Boylen began to send in some subs, the game turned quickly. The Bulls finished the first quarter on a 10-0 run to pull within 23-22, then kept right on rolling. Eventually, it grew to a 31-6 run with the Bulls taking a 43-29 lead on a Dunn lay in off a LaVine steal. Everyone on the bench was at least a plus-13 in the first half.
Thaddeus Young (7 points) was an important part of the bench play in the first half. Since Otto Porter went down with a foot sprain last month, the Bulls have been lacking a veteran presence in the starting lineup.
The reserves have that in Young, but it's not an easy decision to play him with the starters because that would mean either Markkanen or Carter would have to sit.
This time, the Bulls' starters were able to take that momentum and run with it. They kept the lead at 55-44 by halftime, then stretched it to 69-50 after Tomas Satoransky hit a pair of free throws with 8:18 left in the third.
For a while, the Kings and Bulls were kindred spirits, young teams with a supposed brighter future that got off to rough starts this season. Sacramento started 0-5 but had won eight of its last 13 heading into Monday's action.
Kings first-year coach Luke Walton felt the team's preseason trip to India was a factor in the slow start. Sacramento and Indiana played two exhibition games in Mumbai on Oct. 4-5. Kings owner Vivek Ranadive is from Mumbai and spearheaded the effort to bring NBA games to his home country.
Needless to say, a round trip to India involves extensive air travel and less time on the practice court. Marvin Bagley III, the No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft, hasn't played since breaking his right thumb in the opening game of the season. Point guard De'Aaron Fox missed his 10th game Monday and is expected to be out another 2-3 weeks.
The Bulls wrapped up a brief West Coast trip and planned to stay in Sacramento on Monday night. They'll be back at the United Center against Memphis on Wednesday to start a run of six of the next seven at home.
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