Always a team that focuses on taking things one day at a time, the Bulls (24-7) bounced back after a disappointing end to their nine-game road trip after Sundays loss in Boston withstanding a 38-point fourth quarter from the troublesome Sacramento Kings (10-18) to improve to 10-1 at home this season, winning 121-115.
Luol Deng finished with 23 points to go along with a career-high 11 assists and seven rebounds. Joakim Noah finished with season-high 22 points and 11 rebounds and the Bulls bench outscored the Kings bench 44 to 26.
John Lucas (nine points) also finished with a career-high in assists, with nine.
Well take them anyway we can get them. Said Bulls Coach Tom Thibodeau who will be joining Deng and Derrick Rose at the All-Star game as the win helped the Bulls clinch the best record in the Eastern Conference. We found a way to win and I think over the course of the season, you have to win different ways. Obviously our defense needs a lot of work but overall, I am pleased with the win.
The Kings outrebounded the Bulls 46 to 40, including 17 offensive rebounds that led to 25 second chance points.
DeMarcus Cousins finished with a game-high 28 points to go along with a game-high 17 rebounds (10 offensive). Tyreke Evans scored 27 points and dished out eight assists and Marcus Thornton contributed 23 points in the oppositions losing effort.
They were pushing the tempo to start the game and we feel confident that we can play a lot of ways, said Thibodeau. We can play fast, slow; we want to try and get as many easy baskets as we can ourselves and we want to run late. We want to be a complete team, play both sides of the ball. We know we have to do a lot better defensively.
The Bulls led by as many as 19 points in the fourth period, but as had been the case throughout the game; the Kings fought their way back.
After a Taj Gibson (15 points) layup made the game 97-78 in Chicagos favor with 9:03 remaining, Sacramento would respond with a 14-2 run to bring the game to within seven.
The Kings had an answer for every Bulls basket and pulled to within 115-112 after a pair of Evans free throws with 19 seconds remaining. Kyle Korver (18 points) would knock down two free throws on the ensuing possession, only to be shown up by a Thornton three-pointer after a Kings timeout that brought Sacramento to within two with 14 seconds remaining.
Korver would make both attempts at the line following the three making it a two possession gameand Thornton would miss badly on his next three-point attempt and Dengs free throws would ice it.
As is the case with the Bulls, they were happy to win especially with helping send Thibodeau to his first All-Star game as a head coach but they were critical of not being able to get stops to stop the game from being as close and as high scoring as it was.
I feel like our defense hasnt been really good in the last couple of games and we have to get back to that, said Noah. Its always great to win but we have to be critical and understand that we need to play better especially against a team like Boston coming in on Thursday.
Added Korver: Its definitely not the game that Thibs wants to play and its definitely not the kind of game that you want to play against that team because they have a lot of raw talent, a lot of guys who are very explosive and dangerous. That wasnt the game plan but it was good enough to win and well go back and try to make corrections.
With a six-game home stand ahead of them, giving them ample time to correct some mistakes, Thibodeau wants the teams focus to remain the same.
The challenge right now is a long home stand, the All-Star break coming up and its easy to look ahead and get distracted and you cant do that, he said. You have to stay focused on the task at hand, concentrate tomorrow when we come into practice and be ready for Boston.