The Chicago Bulls seemed to be well on their way to closing their six-game homestand with a convincing victory Monday night, one that would enable them to rest their regulars in the fourth quarter before heading into Madison Square Garden.
Instead, they produced one of the biggest collapses in NBA history.
The Bulls look to wash away the sting of an astounding defeat and avoid an eighth straight road loss Tuesday night against the New York Knicks.
Chicago (10-16) began its homestand 1-2 but bounced back by winning tight games against the Knicks (10-17) and Atlanta heading into Monday’s visit from Sacramento.
The Bulls raced out to a 38-19 lead after one quarter and went up 79-44 with 8:50 left in the third, but there would be no rest for Vinny Del Negro’s seven-man rotation before hitting the road. The Kings cut 16 points off the lead by the end of the third quarter and outscored Chicago 33-10 in the fourth to win 102-98, posting the NBA’s largest comeback since Utah overcame a 36-point deficit to beat Denver on Nov. 27, 1996.
The Jazz trailed by 34 at halftime.
“We are not good enough to take a minute off, let alone a half,” Del Negro told the NBA’s official Web site. “We stopped being aggressive, stopped going to the basket. You let teams back in games, they get their confidence up.”
Chicago had seven turnovers in the final 12 minutes and 18 overall after not giving it away once in the first quarter. The Bulls were outscored 28-6 over the final 10:15.
“I think we relaxed,” said Luol Deng(notes), who scored 25 of his 26 points by the 10:39 mark of the third quarter. “I’m not sure what happened offensively, but defensively we just relaxed. We were making mistakes defensively and we were just not aggressive and that carries over to the offense.”
Hitting the road probably isn’t the best way for the Bulls to get over the historic collapse. Chicago has lost its last seven road games by an average of 18.3 points, and fell 118-83 in Atlanta on Dec. 9 in its last game away from the United Center - prompting center Joakim Noah(notes) to say the Bulls “are not competing together at all.”
Despite Monday’s dreadful home loss, Chicago was on the positive end of a come-from-behind victory last Thursday against the Knicks. New York built a 17-point first quarter lead largely due to Al Harrington’s(notes) 14 points and some success behind the 3-point line, but cooled off as the Bulls won 98-89.
Harrington scored four points after the first quarter as the Knicks attempted a team-record 47 3s. Deng, who’s playing through a small fracture in his left thumb, had 24 points and 13 rebounds, while John Salmons(notes) and Derrick Rose(notes) combined for 38 points.
New York, which averages 27.9 attempts from beyond the arc, has scaled back in its past two games, attempting 48 total. The Knicks have won both by four points, beating the Los Angeles Clippers 95-91 on Friday behind 25 points from David Lee(notes) and getting 26 from Wilson Chandler(notes) on Sunday in a 98-94 win over Charlotte.
More importantly, New York improved to 9-8 since opening 1-9, and limited its opponent to under 100 points for the seventh straight game.
“You work every day on everything, not just on your offense,” said Danilo Gallinari(notes), who had 21 points and a game-saving block against the Bobcats. “I think we are definitely playing better. We are playing I think really good defense (for) 48 minutes.”
The Knicks haven’t held eight straight opponents under 100 since a nine-game stretch Nov. 4-20, 2005.