The Chicago Bulls (18-34) are still in the midst of a poor losing skid, which is now up to six games following a 113-103 defeat to the new-look Los Angeles Clippers yesterday afternoon. Zach LaVine led the way with 21 points and nine rebounds but had another rough shooting night as he finished 6-of-18 from the field. Paul Zipser, who started in place of rookie Lauri Markkanen, was one of few Bulls who shot well as he went 6-of-10 with four 3-pointers. With Markkanen still not with the team, Zipser could make yet another start.
The Bulls square off against the Sacramento Kings (16-36), who dropped their fourth consecutive home game with a 106-99 home defeat against the Dallas Mavericks. The Kings had a disastrous 14-point fourth quarter which allowed the Mavs to complete the comeback. It was a well-balanced attack from the Kings, who had five players score between 13 and 15 points. Rookie De’Aaron Fox continued his strong play of late with 15 points, while Willie Cauley-Stein had his second strong game in a row after returning from a knee injury as he finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.
Three keys to the game
Big man battle – Cauley-Stein hasn’t missed a beat since returning from a two-game layoff with a knee injury. The athletic big man has averaged 13.5 points, seven boards, two steals and a block. Meanwhile, Zach Randolph has also started to become much more of a factor offensively over the last few games. The Bulls have had a lot of problems against opposing big men, and could once again struggle to do so against the bigger Kings frontcourt.
Wing play – The Kings’ wing play has been pretty hit and miss for the most part this season. But at least they have multiple options capable of causing problems. The Bulls don’t really have the same luxury. LaVine has been just about their only reliable presence in that position and he’ll need to come up big to take down the Kings.
Bench scoring – The Kings are heavily reliant on a balanced scoring attack, particularly off their bench. The likes of Garrett Temple, George Hill, Vince Carter, and Buddy Hield have all come up big for them at different times. With Markkanen still absent and Mirotic gone, the Bulls must find more scoring from their reserves, notably Bobby Portis and Denzel Valentine, to keep pace with the Kings.
Matchup to watch
Jerian Grant vs D’Aaron Fox – Grant has done a decent job of filling in for Kris Dunn as the team’s starting point guard over the last few weeks, but he’s clearly been over-matched in certain matchups. However, he should have a realistic shot of hanging with Kings rookie Fox. Although, Fox has been playing some solid basketball of late and should be eager to challenge Grant’s defense.
Bulls projected starting lineup
PG – Jerian Grant | SG – Justin Holiday | SF – Zach LaVine | PF – Paul Zipser | C – Robin Lopez
Kings projected starting lineup
PG – De’Aaron Fox | SG – Bogdan Bogdanovic | SF – Justin Jackson | PF – Zach Randolph | C – Willie Cauley-Stein
LaVine may still struggle with his shot, but he has the green light to do whatever he wants in that Bulls offense. He put together a decent line of 21 points, nine rebounds, and four assists against the Clippers and should once again provide the biggest fantasy threat for the Bulls in Sacramento.
As for the Kings, Randolph and Cauley-Stein have the highest fantasy ceiling among the Kings because of the Bulls’ atrocious frontcourt defense. Fox is at a level directly below those two, but the rookie is averaging 17.2 points over his last five games and will have a reasonable matchup against Grant.
It’s not looking good for the Bulls at the moment. They just don’t have enough weapons on offense with Mirotic gone and Markkanen still missing to pull an upset on the road. The Kings aren’t exactly offensive juggernauts themselves, but they do have home-court advantage as well as a glaring mismatch in the frontcourt positions which they can exploit.
The Kings inflict further suffering on the poor Bulls as they pick up another home win, 105-96.
This game will be broadcast on NBC Sports California and WGN-TV. Tip-off is at 10:00 pm Eastern.
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