If you had watched nothing but Derrick Rose's press conference after the Chicago Bulls overtime loss to the Indiana Pacers on Friday night, you would be convinced his team had just lost Game Seven of the NBA playoffs. Rose sounded downright depressed after tying a career-high with 42 points and single-handedly fueling Chicago's late comeback that fell short in the extra period.
The man hates losing and, moreover, he considers it his sole responsibility to make sure the cold fingers of defeat never touch the Bulls. The thing is that, while Rose made a mistake or two down the stretch against the Pacers, his team never showed the defense and rebounding that has buoyed it to 49 victories this year. Rose can heap blame on himself all he wants, but Chicago's eight-game winning streak was snapped because the entire team came out flat and, by the time they matched Indiana's energy, time was in too short supply.
Amazing as it may be that one loss could affect the mood around the Bulls after so many victories in a row, Chicago comes home to the United Center looking to prove a point against the Sacramento Kings.
Carlos Boozer is expected to play after missing the last five games with a sprained left ankle. As Derrick Rose scored 19 of the Bulls' final 20 points on Friday, the team really needs a second reliable scorer in the lineup. Luol Deng is also expected to play through a deep thigh bruise that has bothered him for more than a week, though one wouldn't know it from his floor time and production. Taj Gibsonis questionable for the contest with a sprained right big toe suffered late in the game against the Pacers. He is wearing a walking boot but hopes to play as long as the swelling goes down. And so it goes with the Bulls -- as soon as one big man comes back, another goes down.
The Sacramento Kings have struggled through the 2010-2011 campaign, losing 2010 Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans early in the season to severe plantar fascitis. The Bulls defeated the Kings in their only meeting of the season in Sacramento, 96-85. The Kings began a five-game road trip Sunday with a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
With something to prove defensively and the battle for the top seed in the East hanging in the balance, the Bulls will look to unleash hell on the young Kings at the friendly confines of the United Center.
Kings To Watch For
Rookie Demarcus Cousins is an incredibly skilled big man. He can pass, shoot and rebound at an All-Star level already. But he is a head case of the highest order, an amalgamation of Dennis Rodman and Ron Artest. He was ejected from Sunday's matchup against the Timberwolves for shoving Luke Ridnour. Guard Marcus Thornton, acquired from the New Orleans Hornets at the trade deadline, has been a great pickup, averaging 21.2 points per game.
Bulls To Watch For
It's safe to say that having Boozer back in the fold should help the Bulls. His low post presence on the offensive end provides spacing and gives Rose a consistent pick-and-roll option. Luol Deng loves playing against the Kings, averaging 22.2 points in six contests since 2006.
The Bulls look to begin another winning streak tonight at 7:00 p.m. CDT on Comcast Sports Net.
Follow Zachary Lee on Twitter @rightfieldsucks