The Chicago Bulls extended their losing streak to three games with a 110-101 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Sunday.
The Bulls are 9-14 after going 2-4 on a 12-day road trip and remain 12th in the Eastern Conference.
Here are seven takeaways from the loss.
1. The Bulls nearly tied the game in the fourth quarter, but once again it was too little, too late.
The Bulls have established a blueprint in their losses this season: dig an early deficit, then spend the rest of the game trying to climb out of it.
That same script played out in Sacramento. The Bulls had a 31-20 edge in the third quarter — led by 15 points from Zach LaVine and 10 from DeMar DeRozan — and pulled within one point with 9:31 remaining.
But it didn’t matter. After falling behind by 11 in the first half, the Bulls once again weren’t able to escape the first-half hole they dug for themselves.
“We have to figure it out one way or another or we’re just going to keep being down,” LaVine said. “That’s the name of the game. We play good when we’re behind but then we don’t get over the hump.”
2. The Bulls got blitzed from 3-point range as long-range shooting continues to pose a problem.
Sunday’s loss provided another piece of evidence of the Bulls’ inability to compete from 3-point range as the Kings outscored them 39-27 behind the arc.
The Kings are a heavy 3-point shooting team — they take the seventh-most in the league (37.1 per game) and make the sixth-most (13.6) while shooting 36.5%. They actually had an off shooting night against the Bulls, missing eight 3s in a row in the first quarter and finishing 13 of 43 (30.2%) behind the arc.
The Bulls took eight 3s in the first quarter, a tactic that helped the offense spread the floor and create a more fluid attack. But they took only 11 shots behind the arc in the second half as the offense stalled out and finished with nine 3s in 25 attempts.
3. A sloppy second quarter filled with turnovers fed the Kings offense.
The Bulls opened the quarter with three consecutive turnovers before a frustrated coach Billy Donovan finally called a timeout. The poor ball protection continued throughout the quarter as the Bulls turned the ball over 11 times. The Kings took advantage, scoring seven of their points in the quarter off turnovers.
That pushed any attempt at a Bulls comeback into the second half, delaying the offense’s eventual unthawing.
“It really hurt us,” Donovan said. “We just had too many possessions in a row. Certainly they are a really good transition team, but that only enhanced their transition points in the first half. That was a big part of us digging the hole in that first half.”
4. Zach LaVine’s season-high night kept the Bulls within striking distance, but he did it on his own.
LaVine scored a season-high 41 points, shooting 16-for-28 from the field and 3-for-9 behind the arc in one of his most efficient performances of the season.
Yet the game required LaVine to play hero ball, a familiar role for the Bulls guard that’s the antithesis of this season’s offensive scheme. The Bulls recorded only 17 assists, reflecting a lack of cohesion and movement.
LaVine earned a technical in the fourth quarter as a win slipped out of reach, and he left the court with visible frustration after the final buzzer.
5. DeMar DeRozan’s shaky shooting streak continued.
The loss extended an out-of-character stretch for DeRozan, who went 6-for-18 from the field to score 18 points and turned the ball over twice. DeRozan shot 4-for-15 against the Golden State Warriors on Friday and didn’t score more than two points in the first half of either game.
After a career-best 2021-22 season, expectations may have been unrealistically high for DeRozan. But when his shooting and the team’s ball movement aren’t clicking in the same game, the Bulls offense is extremely limited.
6. Javonte Green’s injury sent Patrick Williams back into the starting lineup after one game in the secondary rotation.
Two nights after being moved into the starting lineup, Green was forced to sit out because of a knee injury incurred against the Warriors. Williams returned to the lineup, giving the power forward another opportunity to make an appeal for his place in the rotation.
Williams tallied 10 points, five rebounds, two blocks and a steal in one of the more balanced performances of the night. He was the only starter besides LaVine to finish with a positive plus/minus rating, providing much-needed rim defense against Kings big men Domantas Sabonis and Chimezie Metu.
7. The Bulls went 1-4 against Western Conference opponents during their 6-game trip.
The Bulls return home with only two wins despite starting the trip with a galvanizing victory over the Milwaukee Bucks. Two weeks on the road brought the team’s weaknesses into focus — particularly in first halves and behind the 3-point line.
Despite the recent losses, the Bulls are only three games back from the upper half of the Eastern Conference standings. But the final weeks of the calendar year will pose a serious challenge to turn the tide — or else they might cement a place in the lower tier of the conference.