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Bulls vs. Kings preview and thread: third straight win on the horizon?

start of the west coast trip with an easy one

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Chicago Bulls Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Your Chicago Bulls will try to nab their third consecutive win tonight as they head to the west coast to face off against the listless Sacramento Kings.

If you recall, at the trade deadline Sacramento hilariously dealt their most promising prospect (Tyrese Haliburton) away in a stupid attempt to secure the tenth seed in the Western Conference... and are instead struggling to keep the 13th seed with a piddling 24-45 record. The team has lost four straight contests, and is just 2-9 in its last 11 games. The centerpiece of that deal, Domantas Sabonis, has put up classic empty-calorie numbers on a bad team (though to his credit he has also stuffed stat sheets on a few quality Pacers clubs before). Across his 11 games with the Kings, the 6’11” two-time All-Star is averaging 17.4 points on 56.8% shooting, plus an excellent 12.8 rebounds and 5.9 assists.

The Bulls have won their last two games and are currently the fourth seed in the East with a 41-26 record, just half a game behind the 41-25 Sixers and the 42-26 Bucks. Even with All-Star shooting guard Zach LaVine sidelined, the Bulls enjoyed a stellar victory against a quality team on Saturday in holding another Eastern Conference playoff contender, the Cleveland Cavaliers, below 100 points for a 101-91 win. A big part of that victory was the return of combo guard Alex Caruso for the first time in 22 games, who helped spark Chicago’s defensive attack.

LaVine remains questionable for tonight’s game as he deals with the knee swelling that has ailed him for the last few months. The Bulls seem ready to rely on a balanced offensive attack, as they did last time, looking to feature Vucevic in his matchup against Sabonis (who missed the Kings’ last two games due to personal reasons but is expected back tonight), and doing their darnedest to seal off speed demons like Fox and rookie Davion Mitchell on defense. MVP candidate DeMar DeRozan will get in his bag with his patented midrange pump-fakes, and Chicago will offset the scoring burden a bit on guards like Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu.

Chicago previously squared off at home against the Kings following their deadline deal for Sabonis and merely outscored them, 125-118. The Bulls failed to contain the Kings’ top two scorers, Sabonis and pricey point guard De’Aaron Fox, as the duo combined for 55 points on 24-of-41 shooting.

But in that game, Billy Donovan knew that his club had the offensive firepower to overcome the Kings’ relatively predictable attack, even without Zach LaVine, Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso or Patrick Williams. DeRozan scored 38 points on 16-of-27 shooting, and also chipped in six boards and six assists. Nikola Vucevic contributed a solid double-double game, scoring 21 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. Coby White also chipped in 31 points on 11-of-19 shooting from the floor (including 6-of-11 shooting from long range).

Chicago should win once again tonight and sweep its season series against Sacramento as it inches ever closer to its first 50-win season since Chicago’s final Thibs year (2014-15). Hopefully tonight’s victory can represent a bit more of a two-way attack than the Bulls’ effort in February.

Injury Report:

For the Kings, Justin Holiday (non-COVID-19 illness) and Alex Len (back soreness) are questionable.

For the Bulls, Zach LaVine is questionable. Lonzo Ball (left knee meniscus tear) and Patrick Williams (left wrist ligament tear) remain out.

Game Time:

9 p.m. CT, NBC Sports Chicago

Odds:

The Bulls are four-point favorites tonight. The over/under for the cumulative game score has been listed at 235.5. (All info via DraftKings. Check out DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook partner of SB Nation.)