SACRAMENTO -- The locker room was a lonely place Monday night in Sacramento. After erasing a 27-point deficit and tying the game in the final minute, DeMarcus Cousins came up short on a free throw that would have given the Kings the lead. The final half minute played out like so many others this season -- disastrous.
Dwyane Wade knocked down a 20-foot fadeaway jumper that was reminiscent of Devin Booker’s buzzer beater Friday night. Matt Barnes’ turnover on the ensuing inbounds play led to a breakaway dunk by Wade and the game was over -- Bulls 112, Kings 107.
“It’s tough,” veteran point guard Ty Lawson said. “We just didn’t have a good start. [Chicago] was knocking down tough shots at the same time and we were helping them with our offense. Our offense was putting up tough shots and missing them. They were able to run, get into the lane and get easy shots.”
Bad offense leading to bad defense plagued this team a season ago. Sacramento scored just 11 points in the first quarter while shooting 5-for-20 from the field. They added six turnovers as they fell behind by as many as 18.
“Obviously, it was a slow start -- a very slow start -- that’s probably an understatement,” Darren Collison said. “Inexcusable. [If] we don’t put ourselves in the hole, probably gives us a shot to win.”
Sacramento bounced back a bit in the second quarter with a strong showing from the second unit, but they still trailed by 15 going to the intermission.
“It’s just energy,” Collison said. “It seemed like when we first came out, we didn’t have enough energy defensively or offensively. [Chicago] just took advantage of it.”
Coming out of the half, the Kings looked like a team waking up from a nap. They fell behind by 25 and coach Dave Joerger called a timeout. He left the same group on the floor coming out of the stoppage, but that didn’t last long.
“I kind of did a quick pull in the first and I didn’t think it was right to do that a second time,” Joerger explained in post game. “I wanted to give them a chance to figure it out a little bit. Balls weren’t going in, they made some shots, we couldn’t get anything to go down in that quarter and then we got it turned around a little bit.”
With just under five minutes remaining in the third, the Bulls' lead had grown to 27 and Joerger was forced to make changes.
Lawson is a tempo changer for Sacramento and his insertion into the lineup paid huge dividend again Monday night. He attacked Chicago in the paint, which opened the perimeter up for his teammates. By the end of the third, the 5-foot-11 reserve had his team down 16 and with momentum fully in the Kings favor.
Lawson’s 3-pointer with 5:41 remaining in the fourth cut the Bulls' lead to three. With 37.9 seconds remaining and the Kings trailing by two, his defensive stop on 6-foot-6 Michael Carter-Williams set up a jump ball situation. Somehow the Kings came down with the possession and Cousins tied the game with a basket and a foul with 30.8 seconds remaining.
But the final 30 seconds was a horror show. Wade was nothing short of spectacular. His jumper and breakaway sealed the deal.
For the 13th time this season, the Kings fell behind by 20 or more points. They often fight their way back into these games, but with the loss to Chicago, they are 1-12 in those situations.
To add insult to injury, Cousins picked up his 16th technical foul with 1.1 seconds remaining and barring a late reprieve from the league, he will miss Wednesday’s matchup against the Celtics due to league suspension.
“Big Cuz has a lot of production for us -- rebounding and scoring,” Lawson said. “Somebody’s got to pick it up. Everybody’s been working hard, so we have to pick up the slack.”
With the loss, the Kings fell to 20-32 on the season. They remain in the hunt for the eight seed in the Western Conference, but they now trail the Denver Nuggets by 3.5 games.