Kings look to keep momentum vs. visiting Bulls
The Sacramento Kings have to worry about, of all things, a letdown when they host the Chicago Bulls on Monday night.
The Kings shocked the Denver Nuggets with a fourth-quarter rally that forced overtime Saturday, then finished off one of the Western Conference's top teams with another come-from-behind effort in the extra session for one of the most dramatic wins in recent franchise history.
The 100-97 thriller came in the wake of narrow road losses at Boston and Philadelphia, after which Kings coach Luke Walton reminded his team that being competitive wasn't good enough. He expected more wins, which would require better finishes.
So the Kings tried the opposite approach on Saturday -- falling behind the Nuggets by as many as 17 points before coming on strong at the end.
"You have to find ways to win the games even when you play badly," veteran forward Bogdan Bogdanovic noted to reporters afterward. "This game means a lot to us."
The Kings will be in search of that elusive complete game when the Bulls visit. Surely, they have reason for optimism against a team they whipped by 19 and 27 points last season.
While Sacramento has won eight of 13 and has been headed generally in a positive direction, the Bulls have lost three in a row, including the first two games on a three-game trip at Golden State and Portland.
The problem: Similar to what ailed the Kings before Saturday's comeback -- competitive efforts but outplayed down the stretch.
"We need to keep playing the way we've been playing, which is hard and together," coach Jim Boylen insisted to reporters after Friday's 107-103 loss at Portland. "The wins will come. Wins are always good, but we're building this thing, we've got the blocks being laid, and I like our effort, I like our togetherness and I like our competitiveness."
Even at 6-14, the Bulls see a means of moving up in the Eastern standings with home games against Memphis and Golden State awaiting after facing the Kings.
The Kings, meanwhile, are staring at eight of 10 on the road after seeing the Bulls.
In other words, Monday's meeting shapes up as an important game for both teams.
Win or lose, Kings fans figure to get their money's worth in a matchup between two of the league's top offensive players -- Chicago's Zach LaVine and Sacramento's Buddy Hield.
LaVine has done his best to produce a win in the losses at Golden State and Portland, pouring in 36 and 28 points, respectively. The Bulls outscored their opponent in each game when he was on the court.
Hield, meanwhile, saved his best for the end Saturday, scoring the Kings' last eight points of regulation while single-handedly outscoring the Nuggets 8-1 over the final 1:58, then capping a 21-point effort with four of the team's 10 points in overtime.
LaVine got the better of Hield on the stat sheet in the two head-to-heads last season, outscoring his rival by a total of 37-30.
But Hield got the better of the duel on the scoreboard. The Kings outscored the Bulls by a total of 52 points while he was on the court, while the Bulls were blitzed by a total of 42 points during LaVine's minutes.
--Field Level MediaHome