The Bulls led early and it rarely got too close for comfort, holding off the Sacramento Kings late for a 122-114 victory. It was a pretty wild game of two shorthanded below-average teams, I don’t think I’ve ever watched more players fly sprawling out over the baseline under the basket. But the Bulls looked a class above (more close to strictly average, really) and that is a nice level to see at this point in the season with some key guys still out.
Per usual it was led by Zach LaVine. The Kings, who own the worst defense in the league, truly had no prayer of even slowing down LaVine. They didn’t have any solid wing defenders to try and their interior help defenders are slow as well. Thus LaVine, to use a Stacey Kingism uttered 14 times a night, made it look so easy. 38 points on only 20 shot attempts, and only 6 attempts from three. LaVine was making a living getting into the lane in this one.
Zach is on a ridiculous level right now pic.twitter.com/WCDs3eTivR— Will Gottlieb (@wontgottlieb) February 21, 2021
A nearly flawless performance, even in the final few minutes where there were some questionable decision-making, it didn’t put the lead in any imminent and he helped seal it along with a Thad Young mid-range flip shot. The defense looked good from LaVine as well, he and the other Bulls guards saw their Kings counterparts all have decent nights in terms of scoring total but they did not play good games. The combination of Fox, Hield, and Haliburton went 5-20 from three (Hield was very bad going 2-10 before a garbage-time make in the final minute).
Beyond LaVine and another great performance from Young (18 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks, zero turnovers) the Bulls were also supplemented by some spot-up shooting by Coby White (five threes) and an aggressive Garrett Temple shooting performance (6-9, 14 points).
It wasn’t a total walkover. The Bulls would jump out to a lead at around a dozen points but never much higher and they did allow Sacramento to get within a couple at times. They went with all offense in the frontcourt and it nearly paid off. Marvin Bagley had one of the better games in his career (I’m assuming...going by what I read I don’t watch much Kings) in a revenge (?) match with Wendell Carter, finishing with 26 points and 11 boards. Hassan Whiteside missed several non-dunks but had several dunks. The Kings had a decided rebounding advantage, getting 25% of misses which isn’t too astounding but the Bulls were held to only 6.5% in that category. But without Richaun Holmes and Harrison Barnes, the bench was bad: they dusted off Jabari Parker for his first 9 minutes of the season, and walking trade offering Nemanja Bjelica was just hoisting from 3 feet behind the line.
As I said in the preview, these were teams going into tonight with identical records but the Bulls had the much better point differential. Tonight the Bulls looked like the outright better team. Especially with Carter’s return from injury (no backup center played at all tonight), the Bulls are still not beating great teams but are handling the bad ones and more and more comfortably closing out the close contests.
That’s not nothing! There’s not a lot of very good teams to even play this year. And there’s another opponent in that pretty bad morass in the Houston Rockets coming up on Monday.