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Bulls limp through loss to Kings
They once came here looking for gold, the miners in the Gold Rush days.
The Bulls came here looking for their own kind of gold, precious Western Conference road victories on a hoped for run to a playoff bonanza.
They're moving on loadedbut only with bricks.
That's because the Bulls clanked their way through an awful 86-77 loss to the Sacramento Kings, shooting 33 percent from the field. They got 30 more shots than the Kings, 12 more rebounds and were an astounding 25-1 on second chance points.
"We had layups, tip-ins, lob dunks, we couldn't make anything," said Bulls coach Scott Skiles. "We started the second half walking in mud and got in a big hole, changed the lineup and got something going.
"But on the road when you get close like that you have to make every play. We're incredibly inconsistent. We had a lot of shots tonight pro players have to knock down."
Among the comedy of errors: Ben Gordon missing 13 of his 16 shots and Tyrus Thomas' attempt to cut the Bulls' deficit to six midway through the fourth quarter.
In that ill-fated play, Thomas roared downcourt after a steal from John Salmons for a breakaway dunk, but the upcoming slam dunk contest contestant twisted his ankle as he ran in, losing the ball.
The Kings recovered as Thomas laid sprawled behind the basket and Kevin Martin hit a three pointer to give the Kings an 11-point lead.
Martin led the Kings with 29 and Mike Bibby added 21 as the Bulls lost here for the eighth straight time.
"It was just one of those nights," sighed Gordon, who had seven points. The Bulls were led by Luol Deng with 20 and Kirk Hinrich with 18.
The Bulls trailed by as many as 15 in the third quarter and finished 4-of-18 from three-point land. But through all that, the Bulls trailed by just four with less than four minutes left when Ben Wallace lost the ball on a point-blank layup in another run of seven straight misses that sealed the defeat.
"It's happened a few times on this trip now where Ben just looks slower," Skiles said. "Defensively he was a step slow. I thought Tyrus was active, a step in the right direction. He had a rough few days and something to play for tonight.
"I thought we were playing hard for the most part. It was a frustrating night because we couldn't get anything to fall."
The loss dropped the Bulls to 28-22 overall and 2-3 on this crucial trip with games Friday night at Golden State and Sunday in Phoenix.
"It's why these games [against the Kings and Warriors ] are so important to us," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said before the game. "Two years right at the [All-Star] break we were showing pretty good evidence we were going to be a playoff team. It was a matter of seeding the last month. Last year at this point, there was a doubt whether we could be a playoff team.
"Now," Skiles said, "unless the sky falls, we're pretty sure we'll be in the playoffs. That can be good and bad because guys can relax. We have to make sure our goals are high. That's why we want to finish this trip well.
We have another opportunity to finish strong. We want to get ourselves in the best position to give us that chance."
That looked encouraging early as the Bulls led by seven in the first quarter behind Hinrich's 11 points and led 23-18 at quarter's end. But they had a disastrous second quarter, failing to score on 13 consecutive possessions at one point, unable to penetrate the Kings' zone defense as Gordon was wild right and left.
The Bulls' usually reliable scorer missed all eight of his first-half shots as the Bulls shot just 30.4 percent. The Bulls were able to hang in, down just 37-35 as they outscored the poor rebounding Kings 16-1 on second-chance points and held a 15-3 edge on the offensive boards.
Gordon spent much of the half while he wasn't in the game trying to limit the growth of a welt on his forehead from an inadvertent P.J. Brown elbow in the first quarter.
The Kings busted out after halftime behind Bibby's shooting and went ahead 54-39 when Gordon ran wildly into Bibby, who had banked in a three. But the Bulls came storming back against the grounded Kings with Thomas scoring three straight baskets to enable them to head into the fourth quarter trailing 60-58.
"We still have key guys we really like who have not played out of the first round of the playoffs," Skiles said. "We don't want that to be our goal, `Let's get out of the first round.' We want to do more as soon as we can. If we can this year, great. But guys can't start thinking about it and let games slip away. Which can happen very easily, guys thinking, `We have one tomorrow. Let's move on.' You have to be focused.
"You look at the two best teams, Dallas and Phoenix, and other than rocky starts for both, you see two teams incredibly focused every game. That's what we're trying to do."
"Playing on the road, it's dangerous to fall behind by double digits," Skiles said. "When you do win on the road you have to play almost perfectly to come back if you expect to win."