Bulls open homestand against Kings

Back home after a successful and lengthy road trip, the leading Chicago Bulls are scheduled to play their next six games on familiar territory and will host the Sacramento Kings tonight.

The Bulls own an Eastern Conference-best 23-7 record -- the fourth-best start in franchise history -- and went 6-3 on the nine-game road trip which was culminated by a 95-91 loss in Boston on Sunday. Celtics guard Rajon Rondo posted a triple-double with 32 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds, while the Bulls were led by 22 points from both Carlos Boozer and C.J. Watson. Watson filled in for an injured Derrick Rose for a second straight game and is averaging 15.6 points and 6.4 assists in five starts this season.

"Our energy wasn't there tonight," Rose said after the loss. "We didn't pick up our energy to the full court."

Rose has missed back-to-back games with an ailing lower back and the team is 5-2 without him in the lineup this season. An MRI revealed no structural damage and the reigning MVP is listed as day-to-day for a Chicago team that had a five-game winning streak stopped in Boston. Rose has also missed time this season because of a toe injury and is averaging 22.0 points, 7.8 assists and 3.4 rebounds in 23 games.

Joakim Noah tallied 16 points and nine rebounds for Chicago, which will also welcome the Celtics, Nets, Hawks, Bucks and Hornets to the United Center on the upcoming homestand and is 9-1 as the host. Dating back to last season, the Bulls are 45-6 (.882) in the Second City. The Bulls have been perfect this season when scoring 100-plus points, going 11-0 when doing so.

Sacramento will head east to begin a six-game road trip tonight and is only 3-12 away from California's capital this season. It will also makes stops in New York, Detroit, Cleveland, Miami and Washington, and had won four of five games until dropping a 98-84 decision versus Phoenix on Saturday.

DeMarcus Cousins and Marcus Thornton scored 26 and 21 points, respectively, for the Kings, who made just 35.1 percent of their shots and also received nine rebounds out of Cousins.

"They play well as a team," Kings forward Chuck Hayes said about the Suns. "Everybody plays with their man, they play their strengths, nobody tries anything extra and they actually play really hard."

The Kings are currently bottom feeders in the Pacific Division. Cousins has recorded 17 double-doubles this season (third-most in the NBA), while Thornton is averaging 19.7 ppg in his previous six contests. Tyreke Evans scored four points versus Phoenix after averaging 21.4 ppg in the previous seven games.

The Kings lost to the Bulls by a 108-98 score back on Dec. 29 this season at home, as Rose dropped 19 points and dished out eight assists to lead his team to victory. Cousins finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds in that one for the Kings, losers in three straight and six of the past seven matchups in this series. Sacramento, however, is 8-4 in its past 12 trips to the Windy City.