The Kings, who at one point in the season were on a trajectory to be just good enough to give the Bulls their first-round pick, have been abysmal since the strange firing of their coach. And with the news circulating that they're looking to fire their interim coach in the next week, it's a team in total disarray.
But the Bulls have lost to teams like that before! At home! But in their first game back in the United Center after a 2-week road trip, the Bulls had a nice blowout win with a final score of 104-86.
The night started off with good news as Mike Dunleavy made his return after missing the past month-plus with an ankle injury. He hit a pull-up three-pointer on the secondary break, which was nice. Dunleavy only had 2 more points the rest of the night, but he played 24 minutes and it was good to see the intact starting lineup again. Unfortunately that only lasted a half, as Jimmy Butler didn't play in the final two periods after re-injuring the shoulder that's been bothering him recently (though it hasn't been on the Bulls injury report).
For tonight, that didn't matter, as the unexpected offensive boost came from Tony Snell. Snell hit his first 7 shots on his way to a career-high 24 points. He finished 9-11 from the field and 4-6 from three. In the three games since his last DNP-CD, Snell's now gone 11-19 from distance, and that goes a long way towards making him a useful contributor off the bench going forward.
Snell hit the first three-pointer of the second half to put the Bulls up 11, and it was then Pau Gasol who took over the game. Pick/popping the indifferent Kings to death, Pau started the quarter 6/6 (and was 11/13 at that point overall) to get the Bulls lead to 23 points. Having a 20-10 game already in hand midway through that 3rd quarter, Gasol finished with a game-high 26 points and 16 boards.
The Kings, meanwhile, went 1/10 to start that 3rd quarter and it was pretty much over. Joakim Noah battled foul trouble all night, finishing with under 18 minutes and only 2 points, but he did an effective job annoying the hell out of DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins shot 5-15 and missed everything outside of 5 feet, though he had an unprecedented amount of SMDH reactions throughout the game. Rudy Gay played pretty well (even when isolated on Butler in the first half) and the Kings overall athleticism was actually giving the Bulls trouble for a time, but the final quarter and a half was pretty much autopilot. Given that it's ThibsBall, since they did let the lead slip to 13 at one point the starters stayed in until the final minute.
The Kings are bad, but it was good to see the Bulls play a bit more uptempo to take advantage, and that was led by a strong start from Derrick Rose. Rose sorta-quietly wound up with one of his better games of the season, finishing 10-17 for 23 points but more impressively 7 assists and 0 turnovers. Defensively the Bulls actually forced some turnovers (13) tonight to help their running game, something they've been quite poor at all season.
The Bulls next game, and final one before the All-Star break, is against the surging Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday. Chicago's done well in doing what they should, escaping disaster in Orlando but crushing two other terrible teams (including the mostly Davis-less Pelicans. It'll be fun to see if this is a real change in their quality of play against a good team.