SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The return of center DeMarcus Cousins to the Sacramento lineup Monday was all the Kings hoped it would be. The collective defensive effort put forth by his teammates surpassed expectations.
The Kings center finished with 25 points and 16 rebounds in his return from a left ankle injury, and Sacramento held the Chicago Bulls to 28 percent shooting in a 99-70 rout at Sleep Train Arena that snapped a seven-game losing streak.
Cousins, who missed six straight games after spraining his ankle at Houston on Jan. 22, finished with his 29th double-double of the season and played nearly 34 minutes. The six-game absence was Cousins’ longest in his four NBA seasons.
Guard Isaiah Thomas added 19 points and forward Rudy Gay collected 14 for Sacramento (16-32), 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.
Guard Jimmy Butler scored 17 points to pace Chicago (23-24), which was held to its lowest point total of the season. Chicago was limited to only 12 points in the first quarter and managed only 13 in the final one. Forward Taj Gibson and guard Tony Snell were the only other Bulls players in double figures, each finishing with 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.
The Kings were on the verge of their first eight-game losing streak since Dec. 11-27, 2010, but they reversed a year-long trend by dominating on the defensive end, a method not seen often in Sacramento this year. The Kings ranked 28th among the NBA’s 30 teams in scoring defense (104.6 points per contest entering the game) and were allowing opponents to shoot 46.9 percent from the floor, the worst mark in the NBA.
But they suffocated Chicago, holding the Bulls to just 4-for-19 shooting in the opening period en route to a 10-for-41 opening half. Overall, the Bulls connected on just 22 of 78 shots, and their 33 first-half points were the fewest in the first half by a Kings opponent all season.
Chicago enjoyed only one offensive spurt. Gibson and Butler combined for 13 points during a 16-2 second-quarter run that was capped by Snell’s 3-point jumper from the wing. But the Bulls scored only five more points over the next eight minutes, bridging the second and third quarters, and were down 49-33 by the 9:45 mark of the third.
Sacramento never led by fewer than eight points after that.
NOTES: 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. … Kings G Jimmer Fredette was back in uniform after sitting out Sacramento’s loss in San Antonio on Saturday with an illness. … 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 and came off the bench in the first two. … Chicago C Joakim Noah is only the second Bulls center ever to be named to two straight All-Star teams. Artis Gilmore was the other one. … The Kings are 6-10 in games decided by six points or less.
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