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Bulls Hold Off Kings To Keep Playoff Hopes Alive

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Chicago avoided blowing a must-win game as they fight to grab one of the final playoff spots in the East.

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Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago's inability to put together a complete game almost came to back to bite them in the ass again Monday night. Holding off the Sacramento Kings 109-102 with a fourth quarter run, the Bulls are now tied for eighth in the East with Detroit.

For the Bulls, they got off to a fairly decent start offensively with Derrick Rose setting the pace with his pushing the ball up the floor. The ball wasn't nearly sticking as much as it usually does on that end, Chicago pinging the ball around quite nicely from side-to-side. Rose and Taj Gibson combined to score eight of Chicago's first 10 points, as Gibson's hamstring looked to be in good shape. Doug McDermott continued his hot shooting by knocking down his first three three's upon entering the game, keeping the pace for the Bulls offensively.

On the opposite end, the Bulls game plan was clear from the get-go, collapse on DeMarcus Cousins forcing the ball out of his hands or into tough shots. Chicago did just that, although every other part of their defense was lackadaisical throughout, with Sacramento hanging in the game only down four after one, 30-26.

Outside of McDermott and a couple nice plays from Justin Holiday, the bench unit really struggled in this one tonight, as the Bulls got absolutely nothing from Nikola Mirotic, Aaron Brooks and Bobby Portis. The decision-making of the latter is just baffling at times in terms of their shot selections offensively which hinders everything the Bulls want to do on that end. Defensively, yeah, not much better.

The second period was much of the same for Chicago, with moments of tremendous ball movement when the starters re-entered. Rose's play continued to be strong in the quarter as he patiently worked the defense finding seems for himself and shots for teammates. And as for Gibson, he did everything tonight for Chicago on both ends, you honestly couldn't have asked him to do anything more, he was terrific.

As a team, the Bulls weren't turning the ball over nearly as much as we've seen recently, having a good assist:turnover ratio. But what kept the Kings in the game was the fact that the Bulls couldn't get stops defensively, and were getting crushed on the boards. Moreover, Chicago's struggles from the charity stripe only compounded their issues. Nevertheless, the Bulls went into the locker room with a 59-51 lead.

With the second half underway, it seemed as if the Bulls were going to run away with this one, as they pushed the lead to 12 at one point. But as the quarter reached its halfway point, and Fred Hoiberg went with his all-bench unit, things collapsed all around. Our former contributor Stephen Noh, touched on it earlier today, but Hoiberg's inability to stagger Rose and Jimmy Butler's minutes damn near cost the Bulls tonight's game. The end of the third quarter was some of most atrocious basketball seen this season, as the Kings climbed back in the game only down one, 82-81 entering the final period.

Hoiberg continued with his Hoibergo lineup as the fourth started, which inevitably led to the Kings taking a brief lead, 95-90. With his starters back in the game, Chicago proceeded to go on a 15-2 run to take a 105-97 lead as the quarter neared its end. A 19-7 run over the final 6:30, along with the Kings being the Kangz, pushed the Bulls to victory in the end.

Chicago did a great job on Cousins tonight, as he went 6-14 with eight turnovers, being frustrated countless times throughout the night. If the Bulls could've stepped it up in other facets defensively, and on the boards in general, this should've been a blowout. In the end, Chicago went 12-24 from three, had 28 assists on 41 made shots, with only nine turnovers. This again goes back to the Bulls not having the ability to put together a complete game, but a win is a win at this point, right?