NBA: Bulls blow 35-point lead, lose to Kings
By K.C. Johnson
CHICAGO — Joakim Noah leaned back in a chair late Monday, eyes closed, hood up, one sock on.
“I ain’t got nothing to say,” said one of the most talkative Bulls.
His depressed pose, which he held for several minutes, had said it all. So had the vociferous boos that rained down from the United Center fans after the Bulls allowed the biggest comeback in the NBA since 1996.
Vying for their second three-game winning streak this season, the Bulls instead suffered a complete collapse, losing all of a 35-point, third-quarter lead in a stunning 102-98 loss to the Kings.
After a torrid start that featured season highs for points in a quarter and a half, the Bulls made just two fourth-quarter field goals and got outscored 33-10. Rarely has a laugher turned so serious so suddenly.
“We’re not good enough to take a minute off, let alone a half,” coach Vinny Del Negro said.
Derrick Rose’s driving attempt to tie with 7.9 seconds left fell woefully short, and Noah failed to exit a scrum with the rebound. Beno Udrih grabbed the loose ball and was fouled, making two free throws for the final margin.
Tyreke Evans scored 11 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter, and reserve Ime Udoka added 15 of his 17 in the quarter to lead the comeback.
“It’s a nonchalant attitude,” Rose said. “You saw it out there. We didn’t complete the plays.”
When John Salmons sank a 12-foot fast-break jumper with 8:50 left in the third quarter, the Bulls led 79-44, and visions of resting starters with a scheduled game Tuesday in New York danced in Del Negro’s head.
Instead, the Bulls shriveled, at one point committing six turnovers on seven possessions.
“You tell them to attack and run our sets, but we weren’t efficient with the passing, screening and cuts,” Del Negro said. “Knowing we’re in the penalty and not settling for jumpers and one pass and quick shots. It comes down to execution.
“Players win games. We got complacent. Everyone takes the blame. It’s me, it’s the players. You have to learn from it and get better.”
The comeback got really serious when Udoka scored nine straight points, including back-to-back 3-pointers, and Evans followed with a conventional three-point play to pull the Kings to 95-94 with 2:13 left.
Luol Deng, who hit his first seven shots and led the Bulls with 26 points, split two free throws, and Evans scored to tie it. After a Rose turnover, Evans made the first of two free throws, then sank a rainbow jumper over Deng after Jon Brockman rebounded Evans’ free-throw miss.
Rose sank two free throws with 46.4 seconds left to cut the Bulls’ deficit to one, and Evans made the first of two free throws with 15.1 seconds left to set up the final Rose drive.
“It was a good look,” Rose said. “I usually hit it. I shot it flat.”
Kind of like the Bulls’ final 21 minutes.
The Bulls shot 70.8 percent in a 38-point first quarter and 60.9 percent in a 67-point first half. But after committing no turnovers in the first quarter, the Bulls finished with 20.
“We relaxed,” Deng said. “And now everybody’s down.”