“The only thing on my mind is getting in shape,” said Artest, acquired for Peja Stojakovic on Jan. 25. “I’ve got an injury. So the only thing on my mind is getting over my injury and getting in shape.”
So he’s not worried about the pressure, the boos.
He’s not thinking about restoring an image tarnished by his destruction of a TV camera and, of course, his role in last season’s brawl at Detroit while with the Pacers. So far, he’s happy with the Kings, and the Kings are happy with him.
He has emerged as a leader in the locker room. And on Tuesday, he helped point the way on the court.
Although he had the potential winning drive blocked and then missed a jumper in the closing seconds, Artest had the tying basket with about 1:00 left in regulation. He hit 11-of-23 shots and was one of was one of three Kings in double figures in rebounding, with Kenny Thomas grabbing 13 and Brad Miller 11. Sacramento outrebounded the Bulls 56-45.
And Bibby was 12-for-22 as Sacramento (24-28) won for the sixth time in eight games and improved to 7-17 on the road.
“Hopefully we can turn it around,” Miller said. “If we want to have a chance, we’re gonna have to win a lot of these games. … It’s good to finish one out.”
Tied at 90 after regulation, the Kings outscored the Bulls 15-11 in overtime. They grabbed a 97-92 lead and hung on after Chicago’s Kirk Hinrich converted a three-point play to cut it to 99-97 with 1:12 left.
Miller’s corner jumper with 49.2 seconds remaining made it a four-point game, and Bibby’s shot from the right side made it 103-97 with 18 seconds left.
With his right foot touching the line, Andres Nocioni hit a long jumper from the top of the key to pull the Bulls to within 103-101 with about nine seconds left. But Sacramento’s Kevin Martin then hit two free throws for the final score.
Thomas scored 16 points, and Martin finished with 14. Miller scored 13.
Chicago’s Ben Gordon rediscovered his stroke after two rough games, scoring 30 points. Hinrich scored all of his 21 points after halftime. He missed his first five shots before hitting a 3-pointer about 4:30 into the third quarter.
“It’s a very painful loss,” Gordon said. “We just weren’t able to make the plays we needed to down the stretch. It’s just really frustrating. We’re losing these games because of one or two possessions.”
The Bulls led 90-85 after two free throws by Darius Songaila with 2:17 left in regulation.
But Miller spun through the lane, got fouled and finished the three-point play with 1:27 left. After Hinrich missed on a drive, Artest tied it with 1:04 left.
Sacramento’s Kenny Thomas grabbed the rebound after a miss by Miller, and the Kings called time with 20.4 seconds left in regulation.
Artest inbounded to Bibby and immediately got the ball back on the wing. With Deng practically stuck to him, Artest drove, but a rotating Andres Nocioni rejected him. Artest then missed from 13 feet, sending the game to overtime.
After going 2-5 out West, the Bulls weren’t exactly back in comfortable territory. They fell to 10-14 at the United Center.
But Gordon looked more comfortable.
He resembled the player who scored 30 or more in three straight games—not the guy who finished the trip by shooting a combined 5-for-19 against Sacramento and the Los Angeles Clippers.
In the end, it was another frustrating night at home.
“We haven’t played well here all year,” he said.
Sacramento’s 15 points in overtime tied a United Center record set by Dallas in November 1994. … The Kings finish their two-game trip at Memphis before returning home, where they have won eight straight. … Bulls G Chris Duhon (left thigh contusion) was in uniform but sat out his second straight game. … When someone mentioned before tipoff that 18 of the Bulls final 32 games are at the United Center, coach Scott Skiles wondered, “Is that good news or bad news?” … The seven-game trip was the Bulls’ longest since the 1992-93 season.