Well, then. Those 11 years sure flew by, didn’t they? The Bulls notched their first post-Jordan win over the Kings in Sacramento — 109-88 if you care about that sort of thing — to match their season-best winning streak. At two games. Hey, it’s been a rough year, okay? It was also their second-largest margin of victory of the 2008-09 campaign, just surpassing the 20-point bulge they enjoyed on Wednesday against the Clippers. Gosh it feels good to slap around the really bad teams. (I can’t wait for February 27th, when we get to play the Wizards Generals in Washington!)
It wasn’t much of a battle, really. The Bulls were up 34-22 at the end of the first quarter and maintained a double-figure lead most of the night. Watching lopsided contests like this is kind of like replaying a video game after you already beat it once and get to go through it again with all your weapons/power-ups/whatever: It’s so easy that the outcome, however gratifying, ends up feeling a little meaningless. But, as documented in detail on this very blog, the Kings are the worst defensive team in the NBA. (In fact, their loss to the Bulls was the 10th straight game in which they’ve surrendered at least 106 points.) And you know what that means: Stat padding!
Chicago shot nearly 56 percent as a team…significantly better than their season average of 44 percent. Ben Gordon and Luol Deng both rung up 20 points. Joakim Noah had 17 (on 8-for-11 from the field), which was only a couple points off his career high. Tyrus Thomas had his second consecutive double-double (14 points, 10 boards) to go along with 3 steals and 2 blocks. Derrick Rose finished with only 4 points — just the fifth time this season he hasn’t reached double digits — but had a game-high 11 assists. Kirk Hinrich added 11 points and 7 dimes off the bench. And Cedric Simmons even had 5 points in garbage time, marking his third-best offensive output of the season. (Seriously.)
The Kings had been averaging 106 PPG in January, so going into the game I was somehat concerned that it might turn into a shootout. Particularly since Kevin Martin has shown an alarming tendency to light up the Bulls (29, 26, 30 and 29 points, respectively, in his last four games against them). And, sure enough, Speedracer got his points — 27 of ’em — but the Kings came out firing blanks as a unit and finished 28-for-76 from the field (36 percent). Even more damaging (to their cause, anyway), they had a group case of butterfinger-itis, bumbling the ball away 22 times and thereby giving the Bulls 28 bonus points.
Said Kings coach Kenny Natt: “We’re going to have to do whatever we have to do to make this change because it’s not fair to anyone — as a team, as an organization, for the fans — the whole bit. We all deserve a lot better so from that standpoint I’ve was very disappointed in our effort.” I feel you, Kenny. Bulls Nation felt pretty much the same way right up until this little two-game reprieve.
Last night’s win was nice, but there was a reason or two for concern. Like the 12 missed free throws (Joakim and Tyrus were 3-for-11) and the 44-37 rebounding disadvantage (including Sactown’s 15 offensive boards). Oh, and that whole Jerry Reinsdorf not publically backing Vinny Del Negro thing. Hey, when your team chairman declares the season “a disaster” and “embarrassing, well, that’s not a good thing. So tomorrow night’s game against the Suns in Phoenix looms large. As in, Shaq-sized. Said Noah: “I’m happy we won and to be able to be a part of it, but tomorrow is Shaq so you don’t want to get too high.” I couldn’t agree more, even if the Suns are having their own problems. As always, stay tuned…