Chicago Bulls Hold Off Cousins, Kings for the Win

Jan 21, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Sacramento Kings forward DeMarcus Cousins (15) dribbles the ball against Chicago Bulls center Robin Lopez (8) during the second half at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 21, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Sacramento Kings forward DeMarcus Cousins (15) dribbles the ball against Chicago Bulls center Robin Lopez (8) during the second half at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports /

The Chicago Bulls went into the tail end of a back to back after a poor showing against the Atlanta Hawks to face off against DeMarcus Cousins and the Sacramento Kings. The starters struggled mightily the previous night to only pile on to what has been a disappointing season.

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The first quarter opened up slow for both teams. The Bulls ran post up plays for Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler to start the game. They didn’t do much for them besides slowing down the offense and leading to tough shots. Chicago struggled a bit defensively as well, Butler seemed to struggle to keep up with the speed of Darren Collison and Robin Lopez couldn’t contain Cousins.

Offense from Paul Zipser and Nikola Mirotic helped the Bulls stretch out a little lead, as both hit a 3-pointer. Zipser continues to play with confidence when given the chance. Rajon Rondo checked in at the end of the quarter, he helped initiate the offense quicker than they had been, though he clearly lacked on defense getting blown by multiple times. Chicago ended the quarter up 24-21.

An all bench lineup opened the second quarter for the Bulls. A Rondo to Cristiano Felicio lob got them off to a good start. The offense continued to hum early with a 3-pointer from Doug McDermott and Zipser each, giving Chicago its largest lead at nine points. The one time Rondo was slow getting the Bulls into their offense he turns it over and immediately fouls for a clear path foul. Kings hit both free throw and get the ball back only down three.

The rest of the quarter saw the two teams exchanging blows. The score remained tight as Wade found his groove getting to the rim and finishing some delicate looking floaters. Defense was pretty inconsistent from both sides. Neither Chicago center could handle Cousins, he finished the half with 18 points that included a spin move thunder dunk on Felicio. The half ends with the Bulls up three, 55-52.

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As the third quarter opened up Lopez’s inability to guard Cousins was on full display. Cousins scored four straight times to open the quarter. Chicago struggled to create offense, looking stagnant. Wade hits a couple of tough shots to keep the score close after the Cousins explosion.

Things became tougher for the Kings when Taj Gibson got assigned to guard Cousins; his ability to defend out of the paint and recover made him more effective than Lopez in containing Cousins. Taj ripped the ball straight from Cousins on his first possession guarding him. The move to the point guard-less lineup worked for head coach Fred Hoiberg. Jimmy was able to break down the Kings and forced the defense to shift opening seams for cutters. The Bulls defense held steady to end the quarter, mainly because Cousins ended it on the bench. Chicago headed into the fourth quarter up two.

The Bulls started the final quarter poorly after closing out the third strong. With Wade playing point guard he wasn’t breaking down the defense the way Jimmy had. Zipser had two cheap turnovers and Chicago’s two-point lead quickly turned into a five-point deficit, 77-82.

The last five minutes of the game made watching it worth it. A scoring dual between Cousins and the Bulls roster. On a big possession Chicago came up with two huge offensive boards finished with a put back from Lopez to tie the game at 99-99. As Sacramento tried to take the lead in the last minute Wade came up with a steal only to miss the fastbreak dunk, bailed out by the refs with a superstar call of all superstar calls. Wade went to the line and hit one of two free throw attempts.

Ball don’t lie.

With the Bulls up one, Gibson stuck himself in Cousin’s shirt and caused a turnover leading to a dunk. Bulls win 102-99.

Hoiberg didn’t bring a point guard back in the whole second half after Michael Carter-Williams got subbed out, until he came back in for the final possession. A good adjustment from Hoiberg allowing Jimmy and Wade to run the offense themselves while the other got a breather. Gibson’s stingy defense was enough to slow down Cousins just enough to close the game.