Without their top player, the Sacramento Kings continue to slide.
With star DeMarcus Cousins day to day with an ankle injury, the Kings look to avoid losing eight in a row for the first time in three seasons Monday night against the visiting Chicago Bulls.
Sacramento (15-32) held a nine-point lead early in the fourth quarter Saturday, then suffered through a 3-for-15 shooting stretch en route to a 95-93 loss at San Antonio. Isaiah Thomas scored 26 and Rudy Gay added 23 with seven rebounds, six assists and five steals, but he missed a potential last-second tying shot.
"It's a learning process," said reserve forward Derrick Williams, who had 14 points and five turnovers. "I don't think anybody in this locker room wants to lose. We just want to get more wins."
Those have been tough to come by without Cousins, who's among the NBA leaders with 22.6 points and 11.6 rebounds per game but has missed six straight contests since getting injured Jan. 22.
Though Sacramento is on the verge of its first eight-game skid since Dec. 11-27, 2010, it continues to play hard. The Kings shot 50.7 percent during a 107-103 loss at Dallas on Friday and overcame a 41.0-percent effort to challenge the banged-up Spurs.
Sacramento allowed an average of 116.5 points in the first four games of the slide, but has held two of its last three opponents to fewer than 100.
"I'm very proud of this team, playing back-to-back, undermanned," coach Michael Malone said. "But it's another example of us being unable to execute down the stretch.
"My challenge to them before and after the game is to continue to play for each other."
Though Gay missed his final five shots Saturday, he's averaged 27.0 points and 58.0 percent shooting in three games since missing three with an Achilles injury also suffered Jan. 22.
Gay had not yet been traded to Sacramento and Cousins sat with a knee injury when the Kings snapped a five-game skid to Chicago with a 121-79 home rout March 13. Thomas went 8 of 14 from the field and finished with 22 points.
The Bulls (23-23) look to avenge that defeat while trying to bounce back after falling to 1-1 on a six-game trip with Saturday's 88-79 loss to New Orleans. D.J. Augustin had 23 points and Joakim Noah added 14 with 16 rebounds, but the Bulls shot 38.6 percent, were outscored 50-34 in the paint and committed 17 turnovers.
Chicago has averaged 89.0 points and shot 40.9 percent while dropping three of five after averaging 97.5 during a 9-2 stretch. The Bulls have not lost consecutive contests since a four-game slide Dec. 14-19.
"We have to play with a great edge to be competitive," Noah told the Bulls' official website. "We have to do a better job with that."
Augustin hasn't lacked for effort while averaging 20.0 points and 47.9 percent shooting over the last 10 games.
Teammate Carlos Boozer was held to four points Saturday but could bounce back against Sacramento, as he's averaged 18.4 in his last seven matchups.