Back-to-backs haven’t been too kind to the Bulls. Heck, most games haven’t been too kind to the Bulls, who own the league’s worst record at 3-18 in the first season of a full rebuild.
But entering Friday night’s game, which came less than 24 hours after a one-point loss in the waning seconds to the Nuggets, the Bulls had lost their three back ends to a back-to-back by an average of 25 points.
A 107-106 loss to the Kings proved closer but no solace as their losing streak grew to a season-high eight games. That’s two one-point losses in two nights, although this one came when Jerian Grant sank a non-defended 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“We have to have more of an edge on the defensive end,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Teams are just way too physical with us and taking us out of our defensive coverages and getting easy baskets.”
Losing on a night when the Bulls received season-best contributions from Paul Zipser and Cristiano Felicio, both of whom have struggled mightily this season, makes the night all the more painful. The Bulls posted a season-high 30 assists.
Felicio, who hadn’t played by coach’s decision in two of the last three games, took advantage of Bobby Portis being a late scratch with a right arm contusion. Portis said he suffered it Nov. 21 against the Lakers and quietly has played through it.
Zipser scored 14 points and reached double figures on consecutive nights for the first time since Games 2 and 3 of last spring’s playoff series against the Celtics. Felicio scored a season-high 12 points.
Zach Randolph’s 25 points and 13 points led the Kings, who also received 19 points from Bogdan Bogdanovic.
Grant, who suffered a laceration near his right eye in the first half, scored 17 points to lead six Bulls in double figures. David Nwaba added nine points, nine rebounds and six assists.
When last seen on the court, Nwaba had earned a starting spot. Active on Thursday in Denver for the first time since severely spraining his right ankle on Nov. 4, Nwaba didn’t play because Hoiberg said he wanted to get the guard one more day of workouts.
Nwaba picked up right where he left off, making impact plays at both ends.
“It’s great to have his energy back,” Hoiberg said.
Said Nwaba: “I was worried because my wind is not fully there and I’m still a little hesitant on moves.”
As usual, the Bulls had their share of chances. Justin Holiday missed a wide-open 3-pointer with 1 minute, 53 seconds left and the Bulls down by two. Randolph then sneaked behind Robin Lopez to rebound Bogdanovic’s airball and push the Kings ahead four points with 51.5 seconds left.
Lopez sank a baseline jumper with 42.8 seconds left to trim the deficit back to two. But De’Aaron Fox cut for a dunk off a nifty feed from Willie Cauley-Stein out of a double-team with 24.2 seconds left.
Lauri Markkanen, who finished 5-for-13, followed with an airball out of a timeout.
“We have to focus on the positives,” Holiday said.