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Bulls make it two in a row by beating Kings
Typically, a franchise's first victory in 10 tries and more than 11 years in a certain arena would be big news.
But the Bulls' desperation makes their needs more current so, instead, they'll merely savor two straight victories.
The Bulls' 109-88 triumph over the dreadful Kings on Friday indeed marked their first victory at Arco Arena since Michael Jordan scored 33 points on Nov. 23, 1997.
More important, the Bulls improved to 2-1 on this season-high, seven-game trip on a day team Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf called this season "a disaster" and "embarrassing." Obviously, Reinsdorf hasn't watched the Kings much.
They somehow dropped to 0-21 against Eastern Conference teams with their eighth straight loss overall and now are 3-20 since Dec. 16.
"I don't care who we're playing," coach Vinny Del Negro said. "A win's a win. I like the way we're playing now. We're running the floor, moving the ball, staying focused."
Ben Gordon and Luol Deng each scored 20 to lead the Bulls, who posted this season's largest margin of victory for the second straight game. It's also the first time since December 1996 the Bulls have posted back-to-road victories of 20 points or more.
Tyrus Thomas added 14 points and 10 rebounds in his second straight double-double, Joakim Noah had 17 points and three blocks and Derrick Rose had 11 assists in 29 minutes.
The day began on a much more dissonant note when Reinsdorf offered stingingly harsh criticism during an interview with Mike North and Dan Jiggetts on Comcast SportsNet's "Monsters in the Morning."
After offering a strong endorsement for general manager John Paxson, Reinsdorf answered North's questions about the coaching situation.
"I have a lot of thoughts about that, but they're not thoughts that I really can say publicly," Reinsdorf said. "All I know is what we have right now is not good and we have to get better. They are playing hard in the last half-dozen or so games. We had some games where they were mailing it in and I felt like standing up and booing with everybody else. They're not mailing it in anymore."
That left Del Negro in the awkward position of defending his team without offending his owner.
"Managing expectations is the hardest thing in this business," Del Negro said. "They didn't win 60 games last year. They didn't have a rookie point guard. They didn't have the injuries we've had.
"You can't compare years. You can't compare teams. You just have to go with what you have, build confidence in these young players, find roles for everybody, try to make everybody happy--which you can't--and try to put your team in position to get some wins."
The Bulls did against Sacramento by playing aggressively early, particularly Thomas. He seemed to be everywhere--drawing charges, seizing loose balls, tallying eight points and six rebounds in the first quarter.
Kirk Hinrich came off the bench to replace Ben Gordon, who had two fouls just 2:24 after tipoff. Hinrich posted seven points and four assists in the first as the Bulls led by as many as 15.
They built their lead to as large as 21 in the second quarter thanks to a 9-0 run capped by an Andres Nocioni dunk.
But the Kings, behind 19 of Kevin Martin's 27 points, whittled their deficit to 54-43 by halftime with Gordon not taking his first shot until 4:54 remained.
In the third, the Kings pulled to within 58-50 before the Bulls ripped off a 9-0 run punctuated by a Noah lob dunk and Noah's block of Brad Miller, which led to a dunk by Deng. This stretch energized the Bulls, who started pulling away.
"When we share the ball and play defense, we can be a good team," Noah said.