Kings Surmount 35-Point Deficit in Third to Stun Bulls
The Bulls led 79-44 three minutes in the third quarter. The Kings had played horrific basketball, finishing off the three-game Midwestern swing just two nights after an epic Brandon Jennings/Tyreke Evans showdown in Milwaukee. The Bulls scorched through their offensive sets, executing crisply and giving the Kings little breathing room on offense. Evans was on his way toward his worst performance since Week 1 of his pro career. Jason Thompson was ineffective, Andres Nocioni (in his return to Chicago) was horrid.
But it all changed in the fourth.
It actually changed in the third, as Sacramento shrunk the deficit to 19 by the final intermission. But it still felt like a blowout -- there was no surge evident. Early in the fourth, the Kings stumbled to within 13 after some Chicago miscues. But it stuck there, with a Chicago lead of 10 or more, until Ime Udoka, a journeyman back-up swing picked up a few weeks into the regular season, nailed back-to-back corner threes for the Kings with three minutes left. From there, it was all Sacramento.
In those final three minutes and change, the Bulls shot 0-4 and coughed up the ball once. The Kings scored on every possession, with Evans scoring nine points on a driving layup through Luol Deng, a ballsy pull-up 22-footer over Deng and a bevy of free throws.
Vinny Del Negro received the immediate finger wags of anger on Twitter, with Yahoo! scribe Adrian Wojnarowski noting that previous Bulls coaches Tim Floyd and Scott Skiles were both fired on Christmas Eve. And yes, Del Negro did take a bunch of fourth-quarter timeouts that only resulted in worse execution. But this is really a dark mark on all the Bulls who played that final stretch, except for perhaps Deng, who did all he could to limit Evans. Before Udoka's 3s, Kirk Hinrich effectively dribbled out a 24-second violation in isolation, one of the worst turnovers I've seen this season. Derrick Rose (who was brilliant early in the game) faced tough defense in the closing frame, but still had the means to get his team a couple baskets.
Evans delivered in the end, proclaiming "This is my house!" after the jumper to put the Kings up three. Careful viewers of Reke's reaction to his own game-winner at the Bradley Center Saturday will note that at that point he said "This is my city!" So Evans, 10 weeks into his NBA career, has now claimed the city of Milwaukee and the United Center. That's two-thirds of a Monopoly, y'all! Get them hotels ready!