SACRAMENTO--You know the drill: Bulls team appears on brink of destruction, before someone rises up to save them from themselves, at least for a night.
With the stars aligned, and one missing, the Bulls emerged with an emotional 107-102 win over the Sacramento Kings, as the savior was the position that had done so more than a few times this season, although not the player.
In a building the Bulls are playing in for the last time as the Kings are moving downtown next season, they got a little mouthwash from the last three visits, all embarrassing defeats.
They didn’t collapse, although they nearly let go of the rope and gave the Kings multiple chances at sending the game into overtime, before DeMarcus Cousins missed multiple inside shots and then when given another chance, missed two free throws that could’ve cut the lead to one, spoiling an otherwise stellar night.
But for the Bulls, desperation called for them to take a star performance wherever they could get it.
“It feels great to get that one, to find a way, we had a couple big defensive possessions down the stretch,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We played with a toughness all night.”
[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]
The Bulls shooting guard leading them in scoring wasn’t their leading scorer, as he was on the bench for the night as a cheerleader with knee tendinitis. But E’Twaun Moore had all the responsibilities of Jimmy Butler, as he was depended on to guard Rudy Gay, a man who was six inches and at least thirty pounds heavier than he.
But he wouldn’t allow Gay to bully him, and found himself wide open for triples when the Kings tried to overload on Derrick Rose or Pau Gasol or were flat-out undisciplined.
Moore hit 9 of 16 for a career-high 24 points, five rebounds and four assists in 37 minutes, including four triples.
“I knew our team needed a spark and it was an important game,” Moore said. “That’s what I tried to come out with a lot of energy and just try to provide that spark for us.”
But even he wasn’t immune from a couple plays that could’ve turned the game in the other direction, fouling Marco Belinelli on a 3-point make, and missing two free throws after Cousins blew an inside opportunity.
Rose played under control with 21, nine assists and six rebounds in 35 minutes, facilitating early and getting more aggressive late, hitting a couple floaters to keep the Kings at bay and the last runner extending the lead to 101-92 with 2:30 remaining.
The Bulls had 26 assists on their 40 baskets, as the ball movement was as good as it’s been through this recent struggling stretch, as Rose was at the head.
“Derrick’s thrust was really good. A lot of our success came from him,” Hoiberg said.
Rose found himself with the ball in his hands more without an extra playmaker on the floor, and looked natural in the role, despite his seven turnovers.
“It comes with it, turnovers and all that,” said Rose, noting he played two quarters straight without rest. “The turnovers were devastating and hurt us but I’m going to learn from my mistakes and protect the ball a little more.”
And when the Bulls couldn’t keep a hobbled but determined Cousins away from the rim, Moore and Rose were the ones tasked with settling things down—especially after Cousins’ drive and devastating dunk on Gasol and Taj Gibson with 1:35 left to cut the lead to 103-98.
“Every game is different, I try to read the game,” Rose said. “If I get my shots here and there, I’ll take it. I try not to mess with the game. We went up, they came back. My job is to read the game.”
Moore started off things with 13 in the first as Rose noted the Kings were laying off him, giving his team confidence when the Bulls were clearly looking for a reason, and some of the much-maligned role players actually followed suit.
“I knew it was important to start the game off well,” Moore said.
“They didn’t know until he hit him with three 3-pointers in the first, then they had to wake up and get him off the line,” Rose said.
After all, role players have to be stars some nights or at least have those moments. Doug McDermott actually called for the ball at the top of the key, definitively stepping into a triple with the Bulls’ lead at a ginger 83-80 margin. It was followed by an Aaron Brooks triple and then suddenly, McDermott swooped in for a two-handed dunk after his own 3-point miss.
The 3-point makes reversed a recent trend where the Bulls have been anemic beyond the arc, as they hit 11 and actually took a 13-point lead before the Kings came roaring back.
Although it seemed like they would fold, they kept it together long enough to pull off a win, giving themselves a little life in the middle of this road trip.