By Jason Anderson


The Sacramento Bee


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (TNS) — The Sacramento Kings tried to do it again, but this time their comeback came up short in a 113-106 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Monday night at Golden 1 Center.


Zach LaVine scored 28 points for the Bulls (7-14), who had lost three in a row and seven of their last nine. Lauri Markkanen had 20 points and seven rebounds.


Buddy Hield scored 26 points to lead the Kings (8-11), who overcame a 17-point deficit to beat the Denver Nuggets on Saturday. Richaun Holmes finished with 20 points and nine rebounds. Nemanja Bjelica had 18 points and eight rebounds.


“We took them lightly,” Hield said. “We didn’t respect them enough. … You can’t take teams lightly. This is a game we should have won.”


The Kings got off to a great start, making seven of their first 10 field-goal attempts while holding the Bulls to 3-of-9 shooting. Sacramento led by as many as 11 in the opening period after outscoring Chicago 23-12 over the first nine minutes, but the Kings fell apart when coach Luke Walton went to his bench late in the first quarter.


The Bulls staged a 24-4 run to take a 36-27 lead on a 3-pointer by Coby White with 7:46 to play in the second quarter. They went up 47-31 on a dunk by Kris Dunn and led 55-44 at the half.


LaVine made a driving layup and sank two 3-pointers early in the second half as the Bulls extended their lead to 19 with 8:18 remaining in the third period. The Kings made a number of runs to cut the deficit to single digits when Hield came up with a steal and a breakaway dunk with eight minutes to play in the fourth quarter, cutting Chicago’s lead to 92-83.


The Kings got within six on a 3-pointer by Bjelica with 7:03 remaining. Harrison Barnes made a baseline jumper to cut the deficit to two with 3:18 remaining, but a big three-pointer by LaVine with 1:15 to play helped Chicago hold on for the win.


“Well, that’s why we continue to preach about playing 48 (minutes),” Walton said. “I thought we did a nice job starting the game. We were ready to go, won three of the four quarters, but not well enough to win a game, and we didn’t do enough.”


———


Bucks pulverize NY


(TNS) — The rudderless, directionless Knicks have nothing left to sell this season. When that happens, people tend to get fired. Watch out, David Fizdale.


The excuses and positive spins had already grown stale from Fizdale even before Monday night’s embarrassment in Milwaukee, the type of massacre that turns a coach’s seat from hot to aflame. The Knicks let go of the rope against the Bucks in their (shield your eyes, children) 132-88 loss Monday night, failing on the front office’s mandate of “being competitive.” They trailed by 18 after the first quarter, 27 after the second, 38 after the third. The Knicks looked like they were playing basketball in a tiny sandbox. The Bucks were floating in open air. Then the Knicks quit and left their tiny sandbox.


Coincidentally, the defeat was to Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer, the reigning Coach of the Year, who the Knicks interviewed for their vacant position in 2018 but passed over to sign Fizdale.


That worked out for Budenholzer, who has won 12 in a row with the best team in the NBA. Not so much for Fizdale, who has dropped seven in a row with the worst team in the NBA.


The 45-year-old Fizdale, who has two more seasons on his four-year deal, became a dead coach on the sideline the moment Knicks president Steve Mills — at the urging of James Dolan — hijacked a postgame press conference and declared that the team needs to play better. Mills has been an abject failure as a basketball executive and saddled Fizdale with supremely flawed rosters for consecutive seasons.


But the coach hasn’t done himself any favors, amassing a 21-82 record with the Knicks. There’s no identity. No style of play. No sense of flow or structure. Since Fizdale lost his final eight games in Memphis, he really only has 21 wins in his last 111 games as an NBA coach. That’s an ugly statistic.


And frankly, the only thing Mills has left to sell is that the coach is the problem. Every other explanation has gone to the incinerator.


From the moment Mills usurped Phil Jackson in 2017 and tried to disavow all associations with the Zen Master, nearly all the promises from he and Fizdale have proven false:


— They were going to be an attractive destination for superstars. (Nope.)


— They were going to build an identity and culture. (Nope.)


— They were going be masters at player development. (Nope.)


— They were going to be competitive and improve every year. (Nope.)


— They were going build a team around Kristaps Porzingis. (Nope.)


According to ESPN, Mills has been “laying the groundwork” to fire Fizdale. And now you wonder again — following Monday’s no-show — how close he is to pulling the trigger.


After all, what is the point of continuing down this road?


———


Suns shine


CHARLOTTE, N.C. (TNS) — The Charlotte Hornets blew a five-point lead in the final minute, after they had recovered from a 20-point deficit, falling to the Phoenix Suns 109-104.


Kelly Oubre Jr. (23 points) made two 3-pointers in that last minute for the Suns, including one off a missed free throw, giving Phoenix back the lead 105-104 with 19.8 seconds left.


On the following possession, Devonte Graham (15 points and 13 rebounds) lost the ball out of bounds off the handoff from P.J. Washington, and then Miles Bridges fouled out the next play with 14 seconds left, sending Suns guard Ricky Rubio to the line. Rubio made both free throws to extend Phoenix’s lead to three.


Graham launched a 3-pointer with nine seconds left that fell short of the rim. Terry Rozier fouled Suns guard Devin Booker with 7.9 seconds remaining, and the Hornets wouldn’t get any closer.


Marvin Williams scored a season-high 22 points off the bench for the Hornets, who fell to 8-14. The Suns improved to 9-10.


———


Sixers hold on


PHILADELPHIA (TNS) — What looked like a runaway rout provided a few anxious fourth-quarter moments for the 76ers. Trailing by 19 points after three quarters, the Utah Jazz summoned strength from their weary legs and twice cut the deficit to seven with under a minute to go.


It proved to be too little, too late for Utah as the Sixers earned a 103-94 win Monday at the Wells Fargo Center.


The Sixers (15-6) are now 10-0 at home. The Jazz (12-9) can only hope for some home cooking after a disastrous road trip that mercifully ended in Philadelphia.


Tobias Harris led the Sixers with 26 points. This was a night when Joel Embiid didn’t have to be Superman. Facing two-time reigning NBA defensive player of the year Rudy Goebert, Embiid scored 16 points, shooting 5 of 13 from the field.


Ben Simmons added 14 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. Al Horford came out on fire, scoring 15 of his 17 points in the first half. He entered the game averaging 14.4 points. The Sixers led by 60-42 at the half.


The Jazz, meanwhile, hadn’t seen a first-half barrage like that for, oh, 24 hours.


Actually the fact that they were down 18 at halftime must have made the Jazz feel they were in a barn-burner, especially after Sunday’s 130-110 loss in Toronto.


In that game Utah trailed by 77-37 at intermission, which not surprisingly was the biggest halftime deficit in team history.


On the bright side, the Jazz are headed home after this 1-4 road trip. The only Jazz win was at lowly Memphis.


Before the season Utah was considered a Western Conference contender and that still could happen, but the Jazz will have to show better toughness on the road, where they are now 4-8.


As for the Sixers, this was their third game in four days although the last two were at home following a short trip Friday to New York.


The Sixers, who led by as many as 26 points in the second quarter, had plenty of early energy, but probably wished they didn’t allow the Jazz to hang around for so long.


———


Hawks tweak Warriors


ATLANTA (TNS) — The Warriors entered Monday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks with a good opportunity to earn a much-needed win. Instead, they didn’t give themselves a chance.


The Warriors (4-18) lost to the Hawks, 104-79, Monday at State Farm Arena. Coming off a tightly contested game against the Orlando Magic that came down to the final shot, the Warriors also welcomed back center Kevon Looney against a Hawks (5-16) team that had previously lost 10 straight games.


After going into the second quarter with a 23-20 lead, the Warriors gave up a 12-4 run, only to fall behind 32-27 with 7:19 left in the half. They wouldn’t lead again. By halftime, the Warriors trailed 49-40.


A lot of shots went in and out as the Warriors shot 39.8%, but the offense was mostly sloppy as they committed 23 turnovers, including 10 in the first half alone. Golden State’s 79 points is their worst scoring output of the season (it had previously been 87 points in a loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Nov. 2).


In the second half, 42-year-old Vince Carter drained a 3-pointer to cap off a 14-2 run that extended the Hawks’ lead to 23, 76-53, with 1:09 left in the third. Rookie guard Ky Bowman’s layup at the start of the fourth quarter broke a scoring drought that lasted nearly five minutes of game time.


Rookie Eric Paschall may have offered the lone bright spot for the Warriors, scoring 24 points on 9-of-11 shooting to along with nine rebounds and six assists. Looney finished with two points and two rebounds in 15 minutes. Guard Alec Burks scored 15 points while Bowman and forward Omari Spellman added 10 points each.


The Hawks were paced by point guard Trae Young’s 24 points and seven assists. Rookie forward De’Andre Hunter scored 18 points on 6-of-14 shooting. Former Warriors center Damian Jones, who was traded for Spellman this summer, finished with 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting and eight rebounds.


Monday’s game wasn’t without its obstacles. With Draymond Green given the night off, the Warriors played with nine players on the second day of a back-to-back set in the middle of an arduous five-game trip.


Still, as the team with the worst record in the league, the Warriors were playing a team with the second-worst record in the league in the middle of their worst stretch of the season. The Warriors are 0-3 halfway through the current trip, with games in Charlotte and Chicago coming up to round out the week.


Those, too, should offer opportunities for a morale-boosting win. So far, however, the Warriors haven’t made the most of those chances.