NBA: Playoff positioning on minds of Kings, Bulls ahead of matchup


Hanging onto the No. 10 spot in the Eastern Conference entering Tuesday, the Chicago Bulls will be seeking a third consecutive win on Wednesday when they open a three-game homestand against a visiting Sacramento Kings team jockeying for positioning in the West.

Sacramento comes into Chicago kicking off a four-game road swing, looking to start a new winning streak after its three-game run ended Monday. The Kings squandered a 15-point, first-half lead in their 133-124 loss to NBA-leading Milwaukee despite big games from De’Aaron Fox, Kevin Huerter and Domantas Sabonis.

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Sabonis recorded his 10th triple-double of the season with 23 points, 17 rebounds and 15 assists, but was limited to 3-of-11 shooting after halftime. Huerter hit 8 of 11 3-point attempts for 28 points and Fox scored 35 points, though both did not come alive until after intermission.

“We just have to be able to take it to them for 48 minutes,” Fox said in his postgame press conference. “In the second half, we gave up 80 points. You’re not going to win too many games giving up 80 in either half.”

In giving up 133 points, Sacramento fell to 1-5 on the season in games where it allows 130 or more. The lone exception is the history-making, 176-175 win over the Los Angeles Clippers in double overtime on Feb. 24.

The Kings head into Wednesday’s contest sitting third in the Western Conference, a game behind Memphis and 5 1/2 behind conference-leading Denver. Sacramento boasts the NBA’s top offense at 121.3 points per game, but is third-to-last in scoring defense at 118.6 allowed per contest.

Chicago, meanwhile, ranks in the top 10 of the league in scoring defense with a yield of 112.4 points per contest.

The Bulls return home after winning a pair of road games in which they held opponents to less than that mark, first stuffing Denver in a 117-96 rout last Wednesday before holding off Houston in a 119-111 decision on Saturday.

Chicago sits in the 10th spot in the East, which would be good for the final play-in berth for the postseason. The Bulls held just a half-game over Washington through games played Monday.

In the win at Houston, Chicago rallied from a difficult third quarter in which it allowed 40 points to hold the Rockets to just 16 in the final period. The Bulls doubled up on the Rockets in the quarter with 32 points, 10 of which came from DeMar DeRozan.

Patrick Beverley was key to the rally with four rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot in the fourth. Beverley finished with 16 points, his first double-digit-point output since joining the Bulls’ roster after the All-Star break.

The former three-time All-Defensive honoree’s presence in the lineup should factor prominently into Chicago’s push to return to the postseason for just the third time in the last eight seasons.

“Energy. Heart. Toughness. Vocal. He gets us going,” Zach LaVine said of Beverley to NBC Sports Chicago following Saturday’s win. “You can see how much he cares about winning and his teammates. We definitely needed someone like that.”

–Field Level Media

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