CHICAGO (AP) — De’Aaron Fox put together another impressive offensive display on Monday night. And all he wanted to talk about was defense.
Fox scored 23 of his 25 points in the second half, helping the Sacramento Kings rally for a 108-89 victory over the lowly Chicago Bulls.
The speedy Fox went 8 for 11 from the field after missing each of his first five shots in the first half. Bogdan Bogdanovic and Marvin Bagley III added 16 points apiece as Sacramento closed out a 3-1 road trip.
Fox said two steals he made in the third quarter were a big part of Sacramento’s turnaround.
“That’s what started me,” the second-year guard said. “After those two steals, the whole momentum of the game just changed. After that, we never looked back.”
Kings coach Dave Joerger agreed.
“What he did from the first half to the second half was awesome,” Joerger said. “He really was a leader out there not just scoring the basketball, but he picked up his defensive pressure.”
Chicago led by as many as 14 in its ninth loss in 10 games. The Bulls were coming off a franchise-record 133-77 loss to the Boston Celtics on Saturday.
Zach LaVine led Chicago with 19 points, and Lauri Markkanen had 13.
“We got stung in the third quarter,” coach Jim Boylen said. “I thought their energy went up and our energy went down as the game went on. That’s something we talked in there as a team, and that’s something we need to fix.”
After falling behind 17-0 on Saturday, the Bulls got off to a better start in this one. They led 33-26 at the end of the first quarter and 56-45 at halftime.
Chicago had a 66-57 lead in the third before Sacramento closed the quarter with a 24-8 run.
Fox started the key stretch with a pair of free throws and then registered steals on back-to-back possessions. He converted a dunk off the first steal and Iman Shumpert hit a 3-pointer following the second.
The Bulls shot 22 for 41 (53.7 percent) from the field in the first half, but were just 6 for 16 (37.5 percent) in the third.
Sacramento kept up the intensity in the fourth and Chicago never made a serious push.
Less than a week into his tenure, Boylen faced a crisis over the weekend. Following the loss to the Celtics, Boylen planned to practice on Sunday even though the Bulls had played back-to-back games.
Some players reportedly discussed not showing up. Instead of a practice session, a lengthy team meeting was held.
Before Monday’s game, Boylen said everything was fine and he would continue to push hard.
“I expected something like yesterday to happen,” he said. “I’ve been waiting on it, I was prepared for it, I took it head on.”
Said LaVine: “I think everything made us closer. Good, bad or ugly, I think that ordeal was good for the team.”