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Bulls western slide continues
Although Peja Stojakovic is gone, the Sacramento Kings still have a dangerous outside shooter.
Kevin Martin scored 20 of his 23 points in the first half, leading the Kings to a 98-80 victory over the Bulls Thursday night.
Mike Bibby scored 20 points, Shareef Abdur-Rahim had 15 and Brad Miller 11 for the Kings, who have won seven straight at home after some uncharacteristically poor play at home in the first half of the season.
Martin, a second-year guard, ignited the Kings in the first half. He made three 3-pointers and helped limit the hot-shooting Ben Gordon to two points as Sacramento took a 51-32 lead into halftime.
"Kevin is coming out aggressive and taking the shots that are there," Kings coach Rick Adelman said. "We see it every day, now he's just transferring it from practice to the games."
In the short term, Martin has made up for the loss of Stojakovic, who was traded to the Indiana Pacers in late January for Ron Artest. Martin has made 14 of his last 22 3-point attempts and scored 20 or more points in six of his last nine games.
"My confidence has been high for quite some time," said Martin, who has been starting for injured Bonzi Wells. "I'm just glad I got off to a good start. I'm still being aggressive and taking the open shot and that's what I'm going to continue to do."
Against the Bulls, Martin made six of 11 shots, hit four 3-pointers and had eight rebounds. The Kings led by 20 or more points throughout most of the second half.
Playing with more defensive focus and hustle since the Artest trade, Sacramento held the Bulls to under 20 points in each of the first three quarters in building a 77-49 lead. The Kings are 4-3 since the acquisition of Artest and have held six of seven teams under 100 points.
Playing with a sore hip that has limited his movement, Artest still finished with nine points, seven assists and six rebounds.
"I'm working with what I've got, that's what I've got to go with," Artest said. "I'm not 100 percent, but it's fine. I can still play defense, still pass and do other things."
The road-weary Bulls shot 30 percent in the first half and finished at a season-low 33 percent overall. A difficult seven-game road trip, its longest of the year, concludes Sunday against the Los Angeles Clippers. Chicago is 1-5 on the trip.
In an attempt to find the right combination, Chicago coach Scott Skiles went to all 12 players in the first half. Back with his starters in the third quarter, the rout grew worse as the Kings opened the third period with a 13-4 run, building the lead to 64-36 midway through the quarter.
"With the exception of Tyson Chandler, we came out flat," Skiles said. "The other four starters weren't at that level so the Kings really took it to us. We got it close and then they just turned it on and we didn't have an answer for them."
Ex-King Darius Songaila and Andres Nocioni both had 14 points for the Bulls, who didn't have a player in double figures until the fourth quarter. Chandler scored only four points, but had 16 rebounds.
Gordon, who had 30 or more points the last three games, was 2-of-9 in 19 minutes and scored four points.
"(Francisco) Garcia and Kevin Martin really outplayed all of our guards from beginning to end," Skiles said. "Bibby did his thing early in the game, but those two guards gave us a lot of trouble."< Notes: Artest and Miller played two seasons together with the Bulls before being traded to Indiana in the 2001-02 season. ... Chicago has lost seven straight in Sacramento. Its last victory was Nov. 23, 1997 in Michael Jordan's final season with the Bulls. ... Sacramento is 9-1 when Martin scores 20 or more points. ... Reserve forward Michael Sweetney of Chicago played 10 minutes and fouled out early in the fourth quarter.