SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sacramento Kings coach Michael Malone had a familiar message for his team before the opening tip Monday. He will be all too happy to repeat it over and over if the results turn out as they did after his latest refrain.
“I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but we had five guys defend as one most of the night,” Malone said after his team held the Chicago Bulls to 28 percent shooting in a 99-70 rout at Sleep Train Arena that snapped Sacramento’s seven-game losing streak. “That’s how we have to play.”
The Kings welcomed back center DeMarcus Cousins from a six-game absence caused by an ankle injury, and he overwhelmed Chicago with 25 points and 16 rebounds while playing 34 minutes.
The big key, though, was Sacramento’s defense. The Bulls made just 22 of 78 shots from the field, managed a combined 25 points in the first and fourth quarters and trailed by as many as 30 points in the final quarter.
Chicago entered the contest ranked 29th among the 30 NBA teams in scoring.
“It’s a make-or-miss league,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “You’ve got to be able to deal with it when you’re not shooting the ball well. … We didn’t shoot it well, and we didn’t defend well.”
Cousins, whose six-game layoff was his longest in his four NBA seasons, recorded his 29th double-double of the season.
“To be honest, after missing 10 days and seven days, I wasn’t sure what to expect,” Malone said of Cousins. “It’s great to have him back. He makes us a very different team, obviously.”
Cousins had 11 points and seven rebounds as the Kings jumped to a 24-12 lead after the opening period. He did so despite the fact that he said his conditioning wasn’t nearly what it was before the injury.
“I probably shouldn’t have been playing, but I’m not the kind of guy to let nagging injuries get in my way,” Cousins said. “I was about to pass out in the first quarter, but I’ve been bouncing off all the walls in here with all the energy I’ve had.”
Guard Isaiah Thomas added 19 points and forward Rudy Gay collected 14 for Sacramento, which was held below 100 points at home for the second straight contest after reaching the figure in their previous 13 at home.
Guard Jimmer Fredette added 11 points off the bench for the Kings (16-32).
The Kings, ranked 28th in the NBA in scoring defense (104.6 points per contest entering the game) and 30th in opponents’ field-goal percentage (46.9 percent), suffocated Chicago from the outset. The Bulls made just four of 19 shots in the opening quarter and were outrebounded 19-7 in the same frame. Chicago made just 10 of 41 shots in the opening half.
Chicago (23-24) finished 4-for-20 on 3-point attempts.
“We tried to pack in the defense and make them shoot jump shots,” Fredette said. “We had success doing that.”
Guard Jimmy Butler scored 17 points to pace Chicago, which was held to its lowest point total in a regular-season game since Feb. 21, 2013. Chicago was held to 12 points in the first quarter and managed only 13 in the final period.
Forward Taj Gibson and guard Tony Snell were the only other Bulls players in double figures, each scoring 11.
Bulls forward Joakim Noah finished with just four points and four rebounds before being ejected after picking up his second technical foul with 7:40 remaining in the third quarter.
NOTES: Kings C DeMarcus Cousins received his NBA-leading 12th technical foul in the third quarter and noted the “chippy” atmosphere on the floor between the teams. Cousins seemed to have an ongoing spat with Chicago F Mike Dunleavy during the game and afterward called Dunleavy “a clown.” … Bulls F Carlos Boozer expressed to Chicago reporters before the game his frustration at coach Tom Thibodeau’s rotation pattern in the fourth quarter, which often has left Boozer on the bench late in games. Boozer did not play in the final quarter in Chicago’s previous two contests. … Bulls G Kirk Hinrich returned to the starting lineup and G D.J. Augustin came off the bench. Hinrich was playing his third game since returning from an injured right hamstring. … Joakim Noah is only the second Bulls center ever to be named to two consecutive All-Star teams. Artis Gilmore was the other one. … The Bulls’ 11-4 mark in January was the NBA’s best.
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