Bulls 108, Kings 98
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP)
Even with reigning NBA MVP Derrick Rose off the court twice in the second half because of foul trouble, the Chicago Bulls' offense never slowed down, thanks to the efforts of reserve guard C.J. Watson.
Rose had 19 points and eight assists, and the Bulls earned a 108-98 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night.
But it was Watson who earned many of the accolades for running the Bulls so effectively in Rose's absence. Watson had eight points, nine assists and five rebounds in 16 minutes in helping Chicago bounce back from a lackluster loss earlier this week against Golden State.
''C.J. did a wonderful job. He did a great job of running our team and getting us some good shots,'' Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. ''Our bench was terrific.''
When Rose left the court with his fifth foul with 7:46 remaining and the Bulls ahead by 10 points, it was the perfect opportunity for the Kings to make a run. But Watson delivered almost immediately, scoring on a driving layup and finding Carlos Boozer for a jumper as the Bulls hiked he lead to 14.
''Derrick told me to be aggressive, and that's what I did,'' said Watson, who had no turnovers and two steals. ''I was just trying to play my game and look for opportunities to set up my teammates. It was fun to be out there and help the team win.''
The Bulls ran off 15 straight points early and never trailed again in defeating the Kings, the NBA's youngest team. Rose helped ignite the first-quarter run Thibodeau was hoping to see.
''The first five minutes of the game we got out and had some easy baskets that were triggered by our defense,'' Thibodeau said. ''That's our first priority. It makes the game so much easier.''
It looked relatively easy all game for the Bulls, who shot 54 percent. Boozer had 16 points and 15 rebounds for the Bulls (2-1). Richard Hamilton also had 16 points, and Ronnie Brewer scored 12 in a reserve role. Luol Deng also scored 12 points for Chicago, which made 6-of-12 3-pointers.
Marcus Thornton had 20 points, and Tyreke Evans had 19 for Sacramento (1-2). DeMarcus Cousins, who fouled out in the fourth quarter, had 15 points and 12 rebounds. Rookie Jimmer Fredette scored 14 points, and John Salmons had 12.
''They have a very good team and know how to win basketball games, they won 62 of them last year,'' said Fredette, who made a pair of 3-pointers and shot 5 of 10. ''They know when it's time to go when we were hoping to take the lead.''
With the Kings trailing by 12, Fredette hit a 3-pointer. Evans followed with an uncontested dunk, cutting Chicago's lead to seven with 2:53 left. But the Kings never got closer against the veteran Bulls, who made free throws in the closing minutes to secure the win.
Rose picked up his fifth foul against Fredette. Joakim Noah followed him to the bench with his fifth less than a minute later and Chicago leading 96-86.
Foul trouble also sidelined Noah and Rose in the third quarter. Noah got his fourth at 8:01, and several minutes later Rose walked slowly off the court after his fourth. Both players sat out the rest of the quarter, but the Bulls still owned a 25-22 edge in the third.
The Bulls managed to stretch their lead to 85-75, heading into the fourth quarter, behind the scoring of Watson and the veteran Boozer.
''I was kind of mad that the refs got me messed up late in the game,'' said Rose, who committed six of Chicago's 18 turnovers. ''I wanted to be more aggressive and attack the hole. We were able to run and play in a good groove. (Fouls) are something I have to get through and can't worry about. I'm just happy we won the game.''
Urged by Thibodeau to play faster, the Bulls were on the run early, scoring 15 fast-break points in the first 16 minutes. They finished with a 33-14 edge in fastbreak points.
''We defended them pretty well, but we can't defend breakaway layups,'' Kings coach Paul Westphal said. ''We have guys crashing the boards, where we have no business doing, and we had guys not rotating back and trying to get steals in the backcourt. The Bulls can run, everybody knew that. If you want to win games, don't give them layups. Make them run their offense.''
Chicago had a number of fast-break layups in the opening half when it led 60-53. Rose had 11 points and five assists for the Bulls, and Thornton had 11 points for the Kings.
The Bulls open the season with four straight road games, the final one coming Friday night against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Last season, the Bulls led the NBA in opponents' shooting percentage, and were the second-best team in terms of points allowed.
NOTES: The Kings opened by missing 12 of 13 shots. ... The Bulls shot 56 percent in the first half and were aided by their reserves, who made 7 of 9 shots. ... The Kings entered shooting 61 percent from the free-throw line. They made 20 of 34 attempts against the Bulls. ... The Bulls scored 15 unanswered points for a 19-5 lead midway through the first, but the Kings scored the final nine points of the quarter to cut the margin to 30-24.