Minnesota Timberwolves 80 – Chicago Bulls 87

Following a tough game vs. Indiana, the Timberwolves were on the road to complete the back to back against Chicago.  The Pups starting lineup had a slight change due to the inactive Brandon Roy and his chronic knee problem.  We’ll probably be typing that a lot this year.  The starting lineup included Ridnour, Budinger, AK47, DWill, and Pekovic.  No changes or surprises in Chicago’s starting five – Kirk Hinrich, Rip Hamilton, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, and Joakim Noah.

Going into the first TO of the game, the Bulls held a 12-8 lead.  The Bulls big men were leading the way early while DWill started the game 0-3 from the field, all on jump shots.  Pekovic was active against Noah, but seemed “off” – for the lack of a much better word – with a missed defensive rotation, an offensive foul, and a blown layup.  However, Noah wound up with a laceration on his knee and had to sit out the rest of the quarter.  At that point, Pek took over, finishing the quarter with 10 and 6.

At the end of the 1st, the Wolves trailed by one point, 20-19.  Aside from Pek turning it around, the story of the quarter was the lackluster shooting, particularly from DWill (0-5) and AK47 (1-4).  As mentioned in the game preview, I thought we needed to counter Chicago’s big men and that shooting percentage wasn’t going to cut it.  Chicago was led by Deng, Noah, and Rip, who had all but 1 of Chicago’s 20 points in the quarter.

About four minutes into the 2nd quarter and the Wolves second unit’s net production was again, very positive.  Dante Cunningham had four quick points and the Wolves took a 25-24 lead into the first TO of the quarter.  Unfortunately, this was followed by a Bulls run and a mini outburst from Nate Robinson.  The Wolves had to burn a TO to stop the bleeding, as they fell six down, 31-25.  True to form, over the course of the following few minutes Nate Robinson became the Wolves MVP with a few careless TO’s allowing the Pups to regain the lead.

At the half, the Pups had the lead 41-40.  Their lack of TO’s (3) relative to Chicago’s (8, including 5 from Nate Robinson) was the crux of why the Pups were leading.  While it pains me to say this, the Bulls with and without Noah on the floor is night and day.  Here were my halftime thoughts through a Wolves lens:

  • As mentioned earlier, Pek dominated while Noah was out and led the team with 14 & 6 at the half.
  • Dante Cunningham had a very nice half and the expectation is to see less of DWill in the final 24 minutes.
  • Again, you don’t realize it and then you look at the box score and AK47 has 4-6-4-2-1.  I’m not even going to provide context there for what each number is in the box score, just know he continues to do a bit of everything.

The 3rd quarter consisted of sloppy, but competitive basketball.  There were a number of lead changes throughout the quarter, but the Bulls wound up outscoring the Pups 23-18 to take a 63-59 lead into the 4th quarter.  The one consistent: DWill missing shots, finishing 0-10 from the field through three quarters.  Ridnour and Budinger kept the Wolves in the game, while Noah and Robinson did the same for Chicago.  Also of note, Kirk Hinrich never came out for the 2nd half for Chicago after straining his hip.  Again, doesn’t there seem to be a lot of injuries this season?

The 4th quarter opened up with a barrage of three pointers from Marco Belinelli to help the Bulls open up a nine point lead.  Unfortunately, during the quarter, Chase Budinger became the latest Pup to go down to an injury and is having an x-ray taken of his leg.  Again, what is with the injuries?!

Still down by nine with just a few minutes left in the game, the Wolves had the ball and Shved hit a three pointer that was waived off due to a moving screen from Cunningham.  This felt like the dagger, but the Wolves continued to fight, with AK47 scoring five straight points for the team, cutting the lead to five points with a minute left to play.

With the ball, tonight’s nemesis Joakim Noah, posted up Pek and hit an up and under to stretch the lead to seven.  After a wild scramble, the Wolves were able to cut it back to five with a layup from Cunningham with just over thirty seconds to play.  From that point, it was just a matter of the Bulls closing it out and they were successful in doing so.  Another hard fought game from the Pups, but they just didn’t have enough firepower to pull out a win.

The loss drops the Wolves to 4-2, with their next game on Monday night in Dallas.

Here are my Three Stars of the Game:

  1. Joakim Noah
  2. Andrei Kirilenko
  3. Luol Deng

Until Monday … Wolves fans need to come up with some type of ‘good health’ rain dance.