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Presented by National Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Chicago Bulls opened a four-game road trip against Western Conference teams with a 113-109 win over the Sacramento Kings on Monday night at the Golden 1 Center.

“This is huge,” DeMar DeRozan said. “We have to carry this motivation to the next game.”

Here are 10 observations:

— The Bulls rallied from a 22-point, third-quarter deficit to finish the game on a 9-1 run after Domantas Sabinis fouled out.

“This team just keeps fighting,” coach Billy Donovan said.

The Bulls have recorded at least 21 three-pointers this season.

“I think it’s the character of the guys in this room,” Coby White said when asked about the team’s toughness. “For me, I’ve been here five years. Some of them I’ve been playing with. But it’s just knowing their story, where they come from, their journey, their story, how they fight through adversity. The basketball court is easy. But a lot of what they’ve been through in life and how they fought. And how they overcome all the challenges that come their way and seem to break through that wall. The character of this class creates the strength of this basketball team.

— White posted his first 30-point game since February 14th and scored a career-high 37 points. After not attempting a shot in the first quarter, he shot 14-for-19. White had seven assists in a strong all-around game. It was White’s seventh 30-point game of the season, his most in his first four seasons combined.

“I was just trying to let the game come to me,” White said. “Ayo (Dosunmu) was really in that first quarter. He was really aggressive going downhill, catching and shooting. So I was just trying to play him, let him do his thing. And then when my opportunities came, I wanted to take advantage of him. I didn’t try to force anything.

White’s previous career high is 36 points, and he’s here in January 2021.

“But I also had zero turnovers (that night) and (Monday), I had three,” White said, opening a window into his winning mindset.

—Similarly, DeMar DeRozan attempted to spark a comeback victory with a late first-half layup. He scored 19 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter, finishing 10-for-12 from the field and 11-for-12 from the line.

“It’s just a feeling,” DeRozan said. “A lot of times it’s just me physically and mentally trying to figure out how they’re going to play or get guys going. Or sometimes I just loosen up. Some games I feel it right away and some games. I have to take it easy. It’s just me knowing myself. I knew I was going to do it at one point.”

White made sure to spread credit beyond him and DeRozan.

“It was a team effort,” White said. “Ayo (Dosunmu) made a huge play. AC (Alex Caruso) had four steals. Julian (Phillips) came in, gave us big minutes, made big-time charges, got to free throws after a big time. Vuoch (Nikola Vucevic) late in the tip. AC got an offensive rebound. The way Drum (Andre Drummond) was checking was unbelievable, he made all the guards come down. JC (Jevon Carter) as well.

“So I really don’t look at it as, “Oh, man, me and Debo are doing this and that.” I look at it as a good, solid team win. And I’m proud of our team.”

—The Bulls defense, which allowed two quarters of 35 or more points, failed to get 24 second-chance points. Climbing is ingrained in the game. Every time the Bulls erase a significant deficit, they allow offensive rebounds and spoil second-chance points. But Sanibis offense seems to energize the defense, which has come up with big stops of late.

Sanibis missed the first six shots and didn’t score 3:40 into the second, but finished with 18 points and 19 rebounds. But Sanibis, who leads the NBA with 56 double-doubles, went 2:57.

— For the third straight game, Nikola Vucevic showed great frustration. He threw a towel on the bench as he left the court at the end of the third quarter, minutes later after being whistled for two fouls, including a transition foul. This was due to the offense against Milwaukee and the absence of Vucevic in the double overtime win against Cleveland, where he beat the bench several times in frustration.

— The Bulls continue to display the up-and-down nature that has defined the season. They gave up a 17-to-1 run to end the first quarter, failed to make a field goal in the final 3:52, and ended the quarter with eight field goals and six turnovers. Alex Caruso missed all seven of his first quarter shots, including five 3-pointers. But then they opened the second quarter with a 9-0 run, including seven quick points from White, who hit the first three shots on Duke’s Harrison Barnes.

— The Bulls extended their run to 22-5 by the end of the second quarter. Caruso was everywhere defensively, posting three steals in the period. White scored 13 points in the period. But the Kings took a seven-point lead into halftime and closed the second on an 8-0 run. DeRozan took just one shot in the first half.

— De’Aaron Fox finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds after missing two games with a sore knee. Ayo Dosunmu took the lion’s share in the always tough match. That didn’t stop Dosunmu from scoring seven of the Bulls’ first nine points without conceding and finishing with 20 points.

— Julian Phillips served as the sixth man in a revolving door role for the Bulls. Terry Taylor, Onralp Bittim and Phillips all served in that latter role. Phillips finished with six points and one rebound as the Bulls’ bench came up short. Phillips had a great fourth quarter, scoring all of his points.

—Of course, Donovan’s attempt to thwart the high-powered offense that was projected on the perimeter scoring, mostly went a little short against the Kings. Phillips, Beatty and even Javon Carter got in ahead of Andre Drummond in a rare first quarter. And a double-huge lineup of Drummond and Vucevic never appeared. Donovan used four guards or wings around one of the big men at all times.

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