CHICAGO -- The Kings have had difficulties in low-scoring games this season.
And it’s not simply because they missed shots. Those games require a level of execution and attention to detail that have not been the Kings’ trademarks.
Saturday night, the Kings had one too many late slip-ups in a 94-87 loss to the Chicago Bulls at United Center.
The Kings (23-43) played the Bulls (37-29) tough, never falling behind by more than eight. But some late lapses, too many turnovers and missed free throws were too much to overcome.
With Sacramento trailing 90-87 with 27.5 seconds to play, the Kings’ Isaiah Thomas fouled Kirk Hinrich intentionally to stop the clock. Problem was, coach Michael Malone did not want a foul.
“(Malone) never said foul,” Thomas said. “I’ve just got to do better knowing time, situation. I didn’t think there was that much time differential on the clock and the shot clock, but I’ve got to do a better job at that.”
Despite that play, Malone said he was proud of his team’s performance.
“We felt trust your defense,” Malone said. “There’s still enough differential between the shot clock and the game clock to get a stop, rebound, timeout and advance it and try to get a shot and maybe force overtime. These are always learning experiences, and the best time to teach is after a tough loss like this.”
Another critical play late came when Chicago’s Taj Gibson broke free for a layup and was fouled, and the three-point play put the Bulls ahead 86-78 with 2:02 to play. DeMarcus Cousins had fallen after being called for traveling, and the Kings did what Malone wants them to do – be good teammates and help him up. But the Kings forgot about Gibson, and Joakim Noah found Gibson streaking downcourt with Jason Thompson giving chase.
Malone said it’s all a part of learning how to win close games.
“Cuz gets knocked down, we’re trying to help our teammate up, they throw the ball long and get an and-one,” Malone said. “End of the game, over a five-second differential, we foul. Those are the kind of things and we’ve talked about this all season, a young team, a team that is not used to winning, those are the growing pains that we have to go through.”
The Kings also struggled again at the foul line, missing 14 times, including six in the fourth quarter. They have missed at least 10 free throws four times in the last five games, including their last three.
“To go 23 for 37, that’s a lot of points to be left on the court,” Malone said. “And the reality is we’re just not good enough to not take advantage of all those free-throw attempts. Disappointing obviously, but we got to the line and (today at Minnesota) hopefully we’ll be able to step up and make our free throws.”
Cousins led the Kings with 25 points, 14 rebounds and four steals. He also had a team-high five turnovers as Sacramento committed 18.
Malone said Cousins made the right passes out of double teams most of the night, but the Kings missed a lot of shots, converting only 36.5 percent.
“We still had a chance at the end of the game,” Cousins said. “And at the end of the day, we fought hard as hell. So I’m happy with our team’s effort, and I would say this is considered a good loss.”
Cousins explained a “good loss.”
“The effort,” he said. “We did a lot of things right tonight. I think we did a good job defensively. Some things didn’t go our way, but at the end of the day, it was a great effort.”
Thomas had a game-high 26 points. Noah led the Bulls with 23 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists and five blocked shots.