Sacramento (17-51) at Chicago (49-19)

By MATT BECKER, STATS Senior Writer Sunday, Mar 20, 2011 Tipoff: 8:00 pm EDT Mon Mar 21, 2011

The Chicago Bulls are known for playing tough defense under coach Tom Thibodeau.

That trait was virtually nonexistent for much of the Bulls’ last game, however, and that led to their first loss in more than two weeks.

A much stronger defensive effort should be expected Monday night as Chicago looks to bounce back against the lowly Sacramento Kings at the United Center, where the Bulls have won 12 in a row.

Chicago (49-19), tied with Boston for the Eastern Conference’s best record, is first in the league in scoring defense at 91.0 points, but had a sloppy defensive performance in Friday’s 115-108 overtime loss to Indiana, snapping an eight-game winning streak. The Bulls surrendered 62 first-half points after allowing fewer than that through three quarters in each of their previous two games.

“We’ve got to do a lot better,” Thibodeau said. “This is a step backwards. We’ve got to come out ready to play.”

Despite the sloppy first-half showing, Chicago, playing without Carlos Boozer(notes) for a fifth straight game, managed to force overtime by limiting the Pacers to 13 fourth-quarter points.

“The only quarter we played defense was the fourth,” Thibodeau said. “So you usually get what you deserve.”

A sensational performance by Derrick Rose(notes) also helped send the game to overtime.

The two-time All-Star scored 19 of his career high-tying 42 points in the fourth, made three free throws with 1.2 seconds left in regulation to tie the score and then blocked a shot to force overtime.

Despite Rose’s heroics, Thibodeau was still upset with his team’s effort, as Chicago fell to 3-13 when allowing opponents to hit the century mark.

When the Bulls play sound defense they usually win, going 42-2 when allowing fewer than 96 points.

Chicago also usually prevails when it takes the court at the United Center.

The Bulls, an East-best 30-4 at home, haven’t lost in Chicago since falling to Charlotte by one point on Jan. 18, their only blemish in their last 21 games at the United Center. The 12-game home winning streak is Chicago’s longest since a 17-game run during its 1997-98 championship season.

Similarly to Friday, the Bulls used a stellar defensive effort late against the Kings on Nov. 27, limiting them to nine fourth-quarter points in a 96-85 win, their fourth victory in five meetings.

Also like Friday, Rose carried Chicago, finishing with 30 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, while Boozer sat out with a broken right hand.

Luol Deng(notes) also had a strong game, as he usually does against Sacramento, finishing with 22 points and nine rebounds. In six games against the Kings since 2006-07, Deng is averaging 22.2 points, his highest against any opponent.

The Kings (17-51) arrive in Chicago after opening a five-game road trip with a 127-95 win over Minnesota on Sunday in a matchup of the West’s worst teams.

Rookie DeMarcus Cousins(notes) was ejected in the third quarter after shoving Martell Webster(notes), but Sacramento went on a 21-0 run without him. Samuel Dalembert(notes) had 26 points and 17 rebounds and Marcus Thornton(notes) added 23 points to help the Kings bounce back from Friday’s 102-80 loss to Philadelphia and win for just the second time in 10 games this month.

“We had our worst game of the year last game and our guys responded extremely well,” Paul Westphal said. “I was happy for the effort.”

Building on this performance and winning back-to-back games for the first time since Jan. 28 and 29 could be tough against a Chicago team that hasn’t lost two in a row since Feb. 5 and 7.

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