Despite having just concluded a 6-3 road trip, the injury-plagued Chicago Bulls return home a bit disappointed after letting a potential seventh win slip away.
A matchup with the last-place club in the Pacific Division could help put them in better spirits.
With reigning NBA MVP Derrick Rose still unavailable Tuesday night, the Eastern Conference-leading Bulls try for a for a seventh win in their last eight meetings with the Sacramento Kings.
Rose has missed seven games this season due to multiple injuries, including the last two with lower back spasms. He saw a specialist Monday and while no structural damage was found, his status remains day-to-day.
"Anytime there's not something structurally wrong that's good news," general manager Gar Forman told the Bulls' official website. "He'll have rest and therapy and hopefully be back soon."
Coach Tom Thibodeau said Tuesday that Rose's condition is improving but "still not where we want it to be." Thibodeau added that the Bulls will "be patient and see how it goes" with their superstar point guard.
With Rose sidelined, Chicago (23-7) saw its five-game winning streak come to an end Sunday with a 95-91 loss at Boston. C.J. Watson and Carlos Boozer each scored 22 points but the Bulls shot just 38.6 percent from the field.
"There's no excuses," said Joakim Noah, who's averaging 13.8 points and 10.8 rebounds over his last five contests. "We're 6-3 on this road trip. We want to be a championship team: 6-3 is OK, not great. Obviously, we're not playing with our MVP. But definitely we had enough in this (locker) room to win this game. I feel like we got outcompeted. I think we could definitely have played better."
While the Bulls went 0-3 versus clubs with winning records on their trip, they had little problem winning all six matchups versus teams under .500 - outscoring those opponents by an average of 18.5 points.
Chicago has also experienced its share of lopsided victories in this series of late. The Bulls have outscored Sacramento (10-17) by an average of 13.8 points while taking six of the last seven matchups, including a 132-92 victory March 21 in the Kings' last visit to the United Center.
Chicago also prevailed 108-98 at Sacramento on Dec. 29 behind 16 points and a season-high 15 boards from Boozer. Rose and Richard Hamilton (right thigh), who also remains sidelined for Chicago, combined for 35 points in that game.
The Kings, who won a season-best three straight Feb. 2-6, have since dropped two of three including Saturday's 98-84 home loss to Phoenix.
DeMarcus Cousins continued his impressive play with 26 points and nine rebounds while Marcus Thornton scored 21. The rest of the team, however, largely failed to produce.
Tyreke Evans - averaging 16.9 points on the season - scored just four while shooting 1 of 9. Isaiah Thomas was only slightly better, making 2 of 9 shots and finishing with five points.
"We just couldn't make shots and we didn't play as a team," Thomas said. "That kind of starts with me and Tyreke - as point guards we've got to get guys more involved, get them in the rights spots and make the offense flow."
Cousins is averaging 20.8 points and 13.6 rebounds over his last five games. He had 15 points and 12 boards in the last meeting with the Bulls.
The Kings, who open a six-game road trip Tuesday, have averaged just 87.7 points while going 3-12 away from home. Their 39.9 field-goal percentage in opposing arenas ranks last in the league.
- Chicago Bulls
- Sacramento Kings