A nightmare loss: Kings 102, Bulls 98

Not again? How about never before?

With 8:49 left in the third quarter, John Salmons hit an 11-footer to help the Bulls go up 79-44 on the Kings. For those who enjoy simple math, that represented a 35-point lead with less than 21 minutes to go. Completely and utterly insurmountable, right?

Historically speaking, it should have been. But, of course, it was not.

Sacramento outscored Chicago an astounding 58-19 the rest of the way, including 33-10 in the fourth quarter. No home team had ever lost after building a lead that huge. It was the biggest come-from-ahead loss in Bulls franchise history. Conversely, it was the largest come-from-behind win in Kings franchise history. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the biggest comeback since Utah overcame a 36-point deficit to beat Denver on November 27, 1996.

That’s some pretty epic fail right there. As John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times said: “There’s no way of knowing for sure, but the Bulls might be the first team in NBA history to be booed off their home court in a game in which they had a 35-point lead.”

What makes this loss even more stunning is that things started off so well. The Bulls began the game by playing some of their best, most confident basketball of the season. In the first quarter, they shot lights out (71 percent), took care of the ball (zero turnovers), and played inspired defense (forcing the Kings into 39 percent shooting and 7 turnovers). Chicago went ahead by 24 at halftime and then opened the third quarter with a 12-1 run that seemed to put the game hopelessly out of the Sactowners’ reach.

Frankly, it was the kind of performance that people have been expecting from the Bulls all season: efficiently and rather mercilessly taking care of business at home against a lesser team. And I’m sure coach Vinny Del Negro had to be thinking about getting his starters some rest for tomorrow night’s game in New York.

Well, they got their rest all right…by going to sleep in the court. May I suggest some narcolepsy medication? Some 5-Hour Energy, perhaps?

My mind is still boggled by what happened. The Kings committed their fifth personal foul with 7:45 to go in the fourth quarter, which meant the Bulls would be shooting free throws on every foul from that point forward. After Salmons knocked down his freebies from that foul, Chicago was still up 94-79. All the Bulls had to do to secure the win was be aggressive, attack the basket, and force Sacramento to foul them. You want to know how many foul shots they earned in the next seven minutes? Four. And they missed two of them.

Instead of pressing their advantage, the Bulls got sloppy. How sloppy? Chicago gave up 23 points off 20 after the first quarter. They committed nine of those turnovers in the fourth quarter, including two shot clock violations, a three-second violation and a carry. They went 2-for-10 from the field during the fourth while giving up 17 points in the final 3:08. The Bulls also surrendered four huge offensive rebounds in that final period, including two in the final 1:12 that led to 1) Evans’ 22-footer that made it 99-96 with 50 seconds left and 2) Evans’ free throw that made it 100-98 with 15 seconds left. Obviously, those boards were critical.

What in the world happened?

Said Luol Deng: “I think we relaxed. We were making mistakes defensively. We were just not aggressive and that carries over to offense. It’s frustrating.”

Added Del Negro: “It was a matter of us not being smart at either end. It’s frustrating. It’s difficult. But what are you going to do, put your head down and feel sorry for yourself?”

Oh, I don’t know, Vinny…how about making some defensive adjustments? Tyreke Evans absolutely killed the Bulls down the stretch. In the final 2:13, Evans outscored the Bulls 9-3 by himself. He started by bolting past Kirk Hinrich and converting a layup while also drawing a foul from Deng. (And of course he knocked down the ensuing free throw.) He hit another driving layup on Sacramento’s next possession, tying the game in the process.

On the Kings’ next trip down the floor, Evans got past Hinrich again, drawing the foul. He hit the first foul shot to put Sacramento up by a point. Evans bricked the second freebie, but the Bulls couldn’t corral his miss. The Kings milked the shot clock before Evans drilled a 22-footer in Deng’s face to put his team up 99-96 with 50 seconds left.

That was a dagger.

Here’s what I want to know. Once it became obvious that the Bulls couldn’t contain Evans with single coverage — the dude was leaving skid marks on poor Hinrich — why didn’t Vinny switch things up? Maybe throw a few double teams at him, try to get the ball out of his hands. Wouldn’t it be better to make, say, Beno Udrih or Jon Brockman try to beat you?

Here’s another thought. Once it became obvious the Bulls were sleepwalking through the fourth quarter, why not insert Jannero Pargo? And I mean before there are only five seconds left in the game. The guy is a spark plug. I can guarantee you Pargo would have been aggressive even if everybody else was standing around twiddling their thumbs. If you have somebody who can come off the bench shooting, what better time to use him than to counter a case of group lethargy?

Look, I’ve tried to cut Vinny some slack. I mean, we all know he’s not Phil Jackson. We also know he’s had to deal with a brutal schedule, a variety of injuries and a group of underperforming players. But it’s the coach’s job to make the necessary adjustments when his team starts to let down. Defensive switches, strategic substitutions, demanding that his players attack the rim on every single possession to take advantage of being in the penalty. Any one of these things might have saved the Bulls from this catastrophe.

And make no mistake: my use of the word “catastrophe” is not an overstatement. The team’s psyche has been fragile all season. After a handful of strong performances last week, they were finally getting a little swagger back. I saw it in the first half. But this kind of loss is a confidence killer.

How will the players respond tomorrow night against the Knicks?

Recap, Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.

Bonus extra:
Go here to read a Sacramento fan’s breakdown of the game with links to several related writeups.

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37 Responses to A nightmare loss: Kings 102, Bulls 98

  1. pumpkinpatch@hotmail.com'
    therealSEANPOE December 22, 2009 at 8:45 am #

    i want vinny to know he single handedly allowed kirk to get killed. a guy knows when hes overmatched and kirk knew it. he had no weakside help. not one double team, why not switch a longer taj gibson on him or a longer luo deng. i mean geez try something vinny, try something instead of just yelling “play harder’ i mean comeon here. tyreke evans is a good talent but nothing but a gun who you shouldve made an adjustment on. hopefully theyll fire you

  2. pumpkinpatch@hotmail.com'
    therealSEANPOE December 22, 2009 at 8:46 am #

    oh yeah. you allowed a rookie to come in and yell directly towards you these words “THIS IS MY HOUSE”


  3. admata1789@gmail.com'
    Adam December 22, 2009 at 10:00 am #

    I would if I knew how to, but will someone please start a firevdn.com, just as the the Florida Gators did with Ron Zook. D-Rose and the ever-so growing Noah should not be exposed to this horrendous coaching that is impeding on their developmental skills.

  4. rchs24jg@yahoo.com'
    letsgobulls_24 December 22, 2009 at 11:34 am #

    Yeah, after last night’s performance, I am finally going to agree with a lot of the bloggers- Vinny D has to go. And fast. When I saw the final score, all I could think was “What the heck just happened??” The feeling was almost surreal.
    What a sad day to be a Bulls fan.

  5. kingdave31@gmail.com'
    Future Guy December 22, 2009 at 12:29 pm #

    What an epic choke job. But, that’s what you get when your owner is too cheap to pay for a real coach or blue-chip free agent, and your team consists of one-dimensional role players and streaky shooters.

  6. chicondo@hotmail.com'
    luvabullnj December 22, 2009 at 1:21 pm #

    It’s all my fault. I was watching the game (and loving it), and the Bulls were in complete command. They got so far ahead, that I fell asleep just as the first half started. And we all know that us die hard fans have this magical Voo-Doo connection with our beloved team. They must have fell asleep because I fell asleep. No wait, I was watching on DVR with delay, so maybe I fell asleep because they fell asleep! LOL
    No, No, wait, it’s all our collective fault. We heaped too much praise on the team after the win over ATL. Arrrrrh! I feel naucious.

    Yesterday I knocked on Pargo, but Matt is abosulutely right. If there was ever a game or time to throw Pargo out there, yesterday’s game was it. Heck even Lindsey’s shown a lot of energy when he’s been inserted into a game. VDN, if you’re listening, if you can’t figure out how to light a fire under your starters, at some point (say when the lead drops from 35 to 15), you gotta start benching the starters and putting in the subs. All of them, if you have too. Heck I would have even told Tyrus to go put his shorts on and get in the game!

  7. detroitmurderdog@gmail.com'
    Detroit Murder Dog December 22, 2009 at 1:38 pm #

    Team is up by 35 and still James Johnson can’t get off the bench. Is that an indictment of the team’s inability to draft, its inability to develop players, Vinny’s inability to coach or all three? If you can’t play a rookie when you’re up 35, then you chose the wrong guy. This organization is a directionless joke that cannot identify or develop talent (e.g., Tyrus). There is no plan, no strategy and no chance for this team to improve. So long as the Bulls are making money, there is no reason for Reinsdorf to make changes. Every Bulls fan should feel personally insulted every game VDN coaches this team.

  8. Kenneth Stanley December 22, 2009 at 2:33 pm #

    Regression to the mean. You don’t assume your team will shoot 70% for the game, and you don’t assume the other team will shoot 30%. Over the course of 48 minutes- a team will perform at its average level most of the time. I know, no too profound, but if you’re a Bulls fan- wait for the other shoe to drop.

  9. k.clark12@insightbb.com'
    kjc December 22, 2009 at 4:39 pm #

    Vinny should have left Rose on Tyreke because in that first half he guarded him well and even blocked one of his shots. I know they put Tyreke at the 2-guard later one but he was the tougher cover and I think Rose was doing a good job on him.

  10. cthomop@hotmail.com'
    mop December 22, 2009 at 4:47 pm #

    I used to be an avid Bulls fan, watched every game the last couple years, would dish out money a couple times a year to see it LIVE!.. Im over all that.. Whats the point??… I am not depressed anymore, and read your blog to get my laughs from all the people still supporting this team… HAHAHA … I am proud to be a fair weathered fan… Because that how IT SHOULD BE! .. Its a fact that is why Chicago Teams in General FAIL!!.. Because we SUPPORT no matter what…

  11. leprecon529@yahoo.com'
    Wes December 22, 2009 at 5:03 pm #

    Hey, VDN is no Red Auerbach/Holtzman but did you notice how Westphal used his entire bench in various combinations until he found one the Bulls couldn’t counter? Jannero Pargo? puh-lease!!! Aaron Grey? Lindsey Hunter? Vinnie had eight guys. Two guards – Heinrich and Rose – were all he had available. Salmons doesn’t count he’s a three playing two. Paxson has left VDN with virtually no flexibility, especially in the backcourt.

  12. sixthman3@hotmail.com'
    Kevin December 22, 2009 at 6:31 pm #

    I agree with luvabullnj and Detroit Murder Dog, how do you not throw in your scrubs at some point with that lead? Would they have given up some of the lead? Absolutely. Maybe even faster than the starters did. Any coach with half a brain wouldn’t expect his scrubs to hold a thirty five point lead. But a good head coach has to ask himself this: Do I want to keep my short rotation in to hold this thirty-five point lead or do I want my starters back in rested to hold a 10-15 point lead? Every day I’ll read in the Daily Dime about how the Lakers second string let a 25 point lead whittle down to 10 only to have Phil Jackson put his well-rested starters (who have sat out most of the 4th quarter at that point) back in the game to seal it. Anybody who watches the NBA knows that these leads evaporate all the time. Give me a twenty, twenty-five point lead and most of the time I’ll give you 3 to 1 odds that it will get down to at least ten at some point. Part of being an NBA coach has to be thinking about what you will do when you lose that lead – not what you’ll do now that you have it.

  13. mrgarcia87@yahoo.com'
    andres Lopez December 22, 2009 at 6:33 pm #

    This is what I been saying these past few weeks, ever since I saw them losing against every team during November on the road. That made me realize that the Bulls were going to need some changes right away if they wanted to make a playoff run again. Sadly VD is not the right guy for the job. What they need is an experience coach like ‘Byron Scott’ to push their young players to next levels like: Rose, Noah, Thomas, J. Johnson & Gibson and they need another go to guy scorer like Al that can space the floor, play multiple positions and hit big shoots to take off pressure on Rose, like Ben Gordan did last year. That is why Rose was able to have an explosive rookie year because he knew he was not the go to guy and their was less pressure on him to score big baskets

  14. bscholtens@hotmail.com'
    Brad S. December 22, 2009 at 6:37 pm #

    Oh c’mon Wes. I am not going to defend GarPaxDorf, but have you checked out the Kings lineup? That is not exactly a team filled with what you would call marquis players. The fact that Westphal found the mix and VDN didn’t is an even bigger indictment against Vinny as a coach. Especially when you consider he had a more talented (and experienced) team, and a 35 point lead!

  15. aha.ins@live.com'
    mike killer December 22, 2009 at 7:58 pm #

    I totally agree with guys, it is really sad and depressing to see the bulls lose that game yesterday when they were up by 35 points in the 3rd quarter against the Kings. So please GarPaxDorf! lets make some changes right away, before it is to late to pick up a coach like Byron Scott and a talented scorer like Al for Tyrus Thomas and J. James for example. Lets face it, when Tyrus Thomas comes back, he is not going fix the Bulls scoring problems that they are having in late games but, he will bring more defense which they have that already with Gibson and Noah. Plus J. James is a waste of a player because he is never going to get the chance to play as a Bull. SO PLEASE MAKE THESE CHANGES RIGHT AWAY! we have nothing to lose if we get Al Harrington and Byron Scott. Remember Al contract is up for next year, so they don’t have to pay his big contract, if it doesn’t work out and with his big money the Bull will have enough money to get 1 super star player like; Chris Bosh, D. Wade or Joe Johnson and maybe 2 really good players like; David Lee, Rudy Gay and other good players like them. Plus with Byron Scott as the Bulls new head coach, he will push their young players like: D. Rose, Noah, J.J, Gibson and Luol Deng to new levels. like he did with CP3, West, Tyson Chandler and others.

  16. aha.ins@live.com'
    mike killer December 22, 2009 at 7:59 pm #

    I totally agree with you guys*

  17. hkphooey51080@hotmail.com'
    its time December 22, 2009 at 10:05 pm #

    ive tried to give vinny the benefit of the doubt as well but its time he goes. yesterday clearly showed that he just cant cut it as an nba coach.

    also, while youre at it..please ship john salmons out as well.

  18. kwills@mail.utexas.edu'
    Scooter December 22, 2009 at 10:12 pm #

    You guys are right. Vinnie should not have made Kirk guard Evans. Derrick had done a great job earlier, why not let him continue playing him? I mean, that’s how you develop a player. Let him play ddefense against their best player and gain confidence on that side of the ball that he needs to develop.

    Vinnie was right about one thing: You can’t stop doing the things that got you a lead. Bulls sopped setting screens, cutting and running their plays.They stopped passing and spacing was horrible.

    Bulls have to do one thing: forget about the second half of that game and just come out and do what they did in the first half. Don’t think about the clock, the quarter-nothing. Stay in the present and think about only the play your in.

  19. ursmacker54@yahoo.com'
    Matt December 22, 2009 at 10:57 pm #

    Step 1. Fire VDN .. Immediately
    Step 2. Fire GarPax
    Step 3. Convince Reinsdorf to sell the team and concentrate on what he cares about .. baseball
    Step 4. Chris Bosh
    Step 5. Championship

  20. mjlynch2@gmail.com'
    Mike Lynch December 22, 2009 at 11:35 pm #

    Not sure of much after that loss, but I do know this: Byron Scott should NOT be hired as the Bulls’ head coach. He’s the guy who lead the Hornets to a spectacular 121-63 defeat in a home playoff game.

    Some other thoughts… Bulls need an on-court leader to hold his teammates accountable, and keep them focused.

    Check out this quote from Shane Battier, courtesy of the Houston Chronicle:
    “”I was taught as a young guy that there are four times during the year when teams are soft, mentally soft,” Battier said. “One is at the start of the year, when you’re not battle-tested. The next is during the holidays — you’re worried about Christmas shopping, the in-laws coming in town, roasting the turkey … your mind isn’t on basketball.””

  21. gobulls76@hotmail.com'
    bullsfan76 December 22, 2009 at 11:41 pm #

    i agree with we need to fire the coach but upper management is also a big prob just look at some of the dumb trades they have made they had a good win against the hawks and then this they need to make a trade soon salmons is killing us he is an ave player he is not a starter that being said as long as we have this owner and these idiots in the front office we are in for a long and painfull season and offseason cause there not going to sign great players and why should they they have put ave teams out there and we keep filling the seats its time fans start to get herd this is ridiculous. enough is enough put a good team out there for the fans that have supported you loyaly fire vdn. now and bring in byron scott for the love of god!!!!!

  22. gobulls76@hotmail.com'
    bullsfan76 December 22, 2009 at 11:45 pm #

    ohh realy mike lynch tell that to the kings dont they have the holidays on there mind come on please thats not the reason

  23. Jangwoolee@gmail.com'
    Nflacn December 23, 2009 at 12:56 am #

    Well the Bulls are lookin at 10 down in the first quarter bs the Knicks. That’s how they respond – by failing. Rose can’t hit a jump shot, can’t stay in front of Duhon, and can’t find an open man. PLEASE WHEN WILL DE NEGRO BE FIRED???

  24. Jangwoolee@gmail.com'
    Nflacn December 23, 2009 at 1:05 am #

    The telltale sign of last nights collapse was after Tyreke Evans buried a jumper over the listless Deng and walked back to the bench grabbing his nuggets. The Bulls had someone who could do that once – #7 on the Pistons. That’s what’s most discouraging about this team – the lack of veteran leadership and character. That neither Hinrich, Deng or Miller were able to summon some equanimity from this team speaks volumes about the simple lack of strength of will.

    12 pts in the first quarter vs the Knicks for the Bulls. 35 point blown lead against the Kings. Loss at home to the Nets. NO BASKETBALLS

  25. felipeagarcia87@hotmail.com'
    felipe garcia December 23, 2009 at 5:36 am #

    I just hope that the Bulls fire VD and hirer a guy like Byron Scott and see what he can bring to the table. Come on Mike Lynch, look what he did with CP3 and he did get them to the 2nd round of the playoffs back then against good teams in the WEST! Also the Bulls need to make a trade soon for another go to guy scorer like AL or some other player like that for Tyrus Thomas and J. James in the deal.

  26. rchs24jg@yahoo.com'
    letsgobulls_24 December 23, 2009 at 8:14 am #

    Detroit Murder Dog- it is absolutely ridiculous that they didn’t put James Johnson into the game.

    Kevin- you couldn’t be more right about VDN’s lack of coaching strategy. It seems like he was thinking “Well we’re already up by 35.. I’ll leave my starters in and maybe we can push it to 70.”

    Brad S- I completely agree. the bulls are more talented than most teams they play, they are simply underperforming night in and night out.

    its time- VDN needs to be replaced, and John Salmons needs to go to. He is constantly turning the ball over, not to mention his terrible fg%.

    Matt- I loved your 5 steps to success. I hope we get Bosh too.

    Nflacn- lack of leadership for this team is a HUGE issue.

    I think it’s a bunch of bologna that the Bulls are one of the most profitable franchises around, yet have a sub-par payroll. We are going to have a tough time winning if we don’t start spending some $$ on quality players. Hopefully next summer, management puts their $$ where their mouths are.

  27. pumpkinpatch@hotmail.com'
    therealSEANPOE December 23, 2009 at 4:12 pm #

    i already did


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