The last time they faced the Sacramento Kings, the Chicago Bulls lost a frustrated Joakim Noah to an ejection, had no answer for DeMarcus Cousins and posted their worst field-goal percentage in 11 years.
The Bulls hope things will be much different Saturday night when they look for a fourth straight home win over Sacramento, the only sub-.500 club on Chicago’s six-game homestand.
After missing six consecutive games with a sprained ankle, Cousins returned with 25 points and 16 rebounds while bullying one of the NBA’s best defensive clubs in Sacramento’s 99-70 home victory over Chicago (36-29) on Feb. 3.
He also helped the Kings (23-42) outrebound the Bulls 53-30 while holding a 48-14 scoring advantage in the paint.
Chicago’s frustration seemed to boil over when Noah was tossed after picking up two technical fouls early in the third quarter. The second came after the All-Star center was called for a foul against Cousins. He then swore at each referee on his way off the floor, a display that cost him $15,000.
Noah wasn’t the only Chicago player to struggle as Carlos Boozer, Kirk Hinrich and D.J. Augustin finished with a combined 18 points while shooting 7 for 34 from the field. The Kings limited the Bulls to just 28.2 percent shooting overall, the lowest for a Sacramento opponent since the team moved there in 1985-86.
It also was the worst shooting performance by a Chicago team since 2003.
The Bulls, however, are looking to build on one of the their best efforts in the rematch after shooting 50 percent overall and 14 of 24 from 3-point range in a 111-87 win over Houston on Thursday.
Mike Dunleavy led six players in double figures with 21 points despite getting 10 stitches after catching an elbow above the right eye in the second quarter. Hinrich scored 19, Boozer added 18 and Noah fell just shy of his fourth triple-double with 13, 10 rebounds and nine assists.
Although Noah has totaled 10 points and 13 rebounds in his two most recent meetings with Sacramento, he’s scored a combined 45 with 21 boards in his last two at home against the Kings.
Chicago has alternated between losses and wins while facing four straight winning teams on its six-game homestand, falling to Memphis and San Antonio and beating Miami and Houston. The stretch at the United Center concludes Monday against Oklahoma City.
"We have this mentality," forward Taj Gibson told the team’s official website. "We look at teams like the Spurs, Heat; we try to have that same mentality. We got beat by a good team from the West (the Spurs on Tuesday). We played another top team from the West and wanted to send a message."
The Kings have allowed an average of 98.5 points – 5.1 below their season average – in their last six games. They held lowly Philadelphia to 39.3 percent from the field while improving to 2-3 on a seven-game trip with a 115-98 win Wednesday.
Rudy Gay finished with 27 points, Isaiah Thomas scored 20 and Cousins contributed 19 points and 12 rebounds to help Sacramento snap a three-game skid.
"Cousins shows you why he puts so much pressure on teams, getting to the foul line and gets us into the bonus so early," coach Michael Malone said after his team went 40 of 50 from the free-throw line.
The Kings are 19-6 when scoring at least 105 points, but reaching that mark won’t be easy against a Chicago team that has allowed just 90.1 per game over its last 16.