The Chicago Bulls were hoping their current homestand would help end their recent slide. It hasn’t started out that way.
The struggling Bulls look to avoid a season-high fourth straight loss when they host the lowly Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night.
After being blown out in consecutive games against Orlando and Cleveland, Chicago (14-20) fell 102-92 to Minnesota on Saturday in the opener of the five-game home stretch.
The result was the sixth loss in seven games for the Bulls, who have struggled to overcome the absence of Luol Deng, Drew Gooden and Kirk Hinrich to injuries. Chicago is allowing 106.0 points during its last seven contests.
“I don’t think it’s because of the some people that are out,” forward Andres Nocioni said. “I think it’s because we are not playing well, we’re not playing enough (defense) to win, we’re not stopping the people in the last 5 minutes when we need to stop people, so I think we need to quit with the excuses.”
While Hinrich (thumb) could be out until February and Deng (ankle) will likely miss a sixth straight game, Gooden could return for this contest after missing his last 10 with a sprained right ankle. He is averaging 12.7 points and 8.8 rebounds this season.
That would be a boost as Chicago - currently ninth in the Eastern Conference - faces Sacramento (8-27), seven-win Washington and league-worst Oklahoma City this week.
The Kings are 2-16 on the road and are looking to snap an 11-game losing streak away from Arco Arena, still well shy of the franchise’s 37-game road skid from the 1990-91 season.
“We’re our own worst enemy,” said Kings’ interim coach Kenny Natt, whose team has lost three in a row and nine of the last 10 overall. “Somewhere along the line we’re going to have to grow up and grow out of that losing mentality.”
In order to take advantage of the upcoming schedule, the Bulls must improve after they shot 39.3 percent and were outrebounded 51-41 against Minnesota.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” reserve guard Lindsey Hunter said. “We’ve got a lot of growing up to do. No matter how shorthanded you are you have to look to the integral things that you need to do to win. It’s an accumulation of things.”
Rookie Derrick Rose bounced back with 22 points against Minnesota after scoring a season-low three in the loss at Cleveland on Friday. The Eastern Conference’s rookie of the month for December is averaging 17.1 points and 5.9 assists this season.
Leading scorer Ben Gordon totaled 53 points in two games versus Sacramento last season, including 33 in Chicago’s 105-101 road loss to the Kings on Feb. 2 in the teams’ most recent meeting.
Kevin Martin scored 26 points in that game and appears back in form after missing 22 of 24 games with an ankle injury. He had 36 in a 98-90 loss at New Jersey on Monday, two nights after scoring 45 in a loss at Indiana.
“(Martin) is a very unique player,” New Jersey’s Keyon Dooling said. “He is fun to watch, not necessarily fun to play against.”
Martin is averaging 25.2 points in six games this season for the Kings, who blew a 13-point second-half lead Monday and now try to salvage a win on their four-game road trip.
Despite its current struggles on the road, Sacramento has won seven of its last nine at Chicago.