Thursday night is feature night in the NBA, and the Kings haven’t given the league much to feature in recent years.
That changed Thursday at Sleep Train Arena with TNT in town as the Kings hosted the Chicago Bulls.
And Sacramento, which has been out to show the NBA this season’s bunch isn’t like those from seasons past that are responsible for eight consecutive losing seasons, improved on their solid start with a 103-88 win.
DeMarcus Cousins led the Kings with 22 points, 14 rebounds and four assists as six Kings scored in double figures.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Sacramento Bee
The win was the second for the Kings on their three-game homestand before a four-game trip begins Saturday at Minnesota.
The Kings (7-5) had lost three of their previous four games and cited their lack of defensive focus as the reason. They found their stride defensively against the Bulls, holding Chicago to 42.9 percent shooting and scoring 23 points off 15 Chicago turnovers.
The second half had been a problem in recent losses, but the Kings held the Bulls to 41 second-half points.
The Kings also put together an efficient offensive game against the Bulls’ stingy defense. The Kings shot 51.4 percent and had a season-high 26 assists. The previous best was 23 twice.
The Kings had 13 turnovers but gave up only eight points off them.
The Bulls (8-4) entered the game 6-0 on the road and were coming off an impressive road win over the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Bulls came out poised to stay undefeated away from United Center, leading by as many 10 points. They held a 29-22 advantage after the first quarter.
The Kings, however, received a big boost from their bench in the second quarter to withstand Chicago’s hot start.
One source of production from the bench was a surprise. Derrick Williams, out of the rotation for much of the season, played 15 minutes in the first half and scored 10 points with two assists.
Williams was acquired in a trade from Minnesota last season but lost his starting job at small forward when the Kings traded for Rudy Gay. Williams’ offseason work was praised, but he eventually lost out on playing time behind Gay to Omri Casspi, who returned to the Kings on a one-year deal this offseason.
Williams played a season-high 23 minutes in finishing with 10 points. He’d scored only 11 points all season and hadn’t played in four of the previous six games.
“I want to give (Williams) some love because he is a young man who has not played a lot this year but he stayed ready,” Kings coach Michael Malone said. “He’s been working very, very hard and that allowed him to take advantage of the opportunity given to him tonight.”
Casspi was also a factor off the bench. He scored eight points of his 14 points in the first half when the Kings shook off a slow start and outscored the Bulls 30-18 in the second quarter to take a 52-47 lead into halftime. Casspi made all five of his field-goal attempts in the game.
The Kings held the Bulls to 8-for-21 shooting in the second quarter while shooting 12 for 19.
“We had a gap in the middle of the second (quarter) where we got hurt,” Bull coach Tom Thibodeau said. “The game swung there, then we couldn’t get a handle on it the rest of the way.”
Darren Collison had his second consecutive double double with 17 points and 12 assists. Gay had 20 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
The Bulls were without two starters – guard Derrick Rose (left hamstring) and Pau Gasol (left calf strain). Rose has missed the past three games while Gasol has missed two.
Jimmy Butler led the Bulls with 23 points. All-Star center Joakim Noah had 10 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.