The Kings went into this game with the chance to win their fifth straight game and push their record to 6-4.
They were trying to do so against a Bulls team that hadn’t cracked the 100-point mark all season and actually hadn’t even scored 95 points in a contest. They’re one of the five worst teams in eFG% and offensive rating. But what they do excel at is defense and forcing turnovers. And that’s exactly how they beat the Kings at Arco on Tuesday.
The Bulls shot abnormally well from the perimeter and finished with a shooting percentage of 47% (42.9% for the season). They did this on a night in which Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich combined to shoot 3/21. So what went right for the Bulls? Well, Jannero Pargo sparked them early in the second quarter (pretty much the deciding quarter) by scoring nine of his 12 points and John Salmons and Luol Deng took the reigns from there by combining for 39 points on 17/32 shooting.
What you noticed about this team is they did everything you’d hope for the young Kings to do. They played defense as a team and scored efficiently enough to win the game. The Bulls may be the best team in the league at denying the post entry pass. And they did a spectacular job of doing this against the Kings.
Part of the problem was the spacing for the offense. The Kings still have issues giving Tyreke Evans a lot of space when he’s running the offense from the top of the key. It just feels like they’re dealing with a shorter court. In doing so, it made it really hard for him to get a pass into Jason Thompson or Spencer Hawes because John Salmons length combined with the poor spacing made each pass dangerous. But the key with how the Bulls defend the post entry pass is in their big men. Joakim Noah is easily the best player in the NBA at denying that pass. He’s very quick in the way he shifts his position (constantly) and with his length, he tips nearly every pass inside, even when he’s not fronting the post. And he dominated Jason Thompson by doing this.
JT has played like an All-Star over the past five games but against the Bulls Noah made him look like a lowly rookie, incapable of putting together a good stretch of basketball. Thompson’s performance was pretty encompassing of how the Kings faired all night. He committed seven turnovers in this game and a lot of them looked to be due to a lack of concentration. Four times in this game he simply couldn’t handle a pass or lost the ball. The Kings turned the ball over 21 times in this game and gave up 28 points off of those turnovers.
What went right for the Kings was the play of Sergio Rodriguez and Donté Greene. Sergio played like the backup point guard Kings fans hoped for when he was acquired on draft night. He stepped up on a night in which Beno Udrih struggled to do much against Derrick Rose (completely understandable). But Sergio’s quickness was a huge asset as he was able to penetrate the defense and find the open man quite often.
As for Donté Greene, if he’s aggressive going to the basket like that then he’s going to be impossible to keep out of the starting lineup for a lot of teams. 10 of his 24 points came inside and his first eight points were all in the paint. He drove to the basket exclusively before he made his first three-pointer and then after that he settled for a lot of jump shots.
Overall, the Kings simply didn’t make any shots and didn’t take care of the ball. They settled for a lot of three-pointers instead of staying patient and aggressive and attacking the defense. Against a superior defensive team like the Bulls, that sort of play won’t fly. This was a good test for the Kings to play against a solid playoff team that doesn’t let you get away with many mistakes.