Bulls Charge Past Wolves, 96-89

The Bulls laid into Andrew Wiggins and made it a rough night for the rookie. (Photo credit: Nam Y Huh, AP Photo)

The Bulls laid into Andrew Wiggins and made it a rough night for the rookie. (Photo credit: Nam Y Huh, AP Photo)


Two nights after the most exciting game at Target Center in years, the Minnesota Timberwolves returned to the court to take on the Chicago Bulls.  Before the game started, the teams announced that key players would be missing from both squads.  Most importantly for Wolves’ fans, Kevin Garnett was ruled out of Friday night’s game in Chicago.  Prior to tip-off, the Bulls announced that Pau Gasol would miss Friday’s game, after also announcing that Derrick Rose had successful surgery earlier in the day and may be able to be back on the court in 4-6 weeks.

The Timberwolves opened up with a starting lineup of Ricky Rubio, an on-fire in recent weeks Kevin Martin, Andrew Wiggins, Adreian Payne, and Nikola Pekovic.  The Bulls made the appropriate adjustments due to the aforementioned injuries and countered with Aaron Brooks, Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Taj Gibson, and Joakim Noah.

The Bulls got off to a quick start, taking a 15-8 lead and forcing Flip Saunders to burn an early timeout.  Chicago had seven assists on their first seven made field goals.  However, the Andrew Wiggins show started to warm up shortly thereafter, as the rookie scored seven points in a row (for the Wolves) to cut the Chicago lead to 21-19.  At the same time the Bulls were forced to take a timeout as Taj Gibson was injured (and subsequently ruled out for the remainder of the game).  For the remainder of the quarter both teams slowed things down and plodded along a bit.  Chicago took a 27-23 lead into the second quarter.

In typical Bulls’ fashion, the game continued to a somewhat ugly pattern or form well into the second quarter.  If the Wolves were looking for a silver lining, they may look no further than Gary Neal.  Halfway through the quarter and Neal scored or assisted on all but two Timberwolves’ baskets and led the charge giving the Wolves a 37-34 advantage.

That timeout sparked a 10-2 by the Bulls, giving them a 44-39 advantage, sparked by two three pointers from Mike Dunleavy.

For the second consecutive quarter, points became a premium in the final three minutes of the half.  Chicago took a 51-44 lead into halftime and the Wolves were a little lucky it wasn’t worse, as Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler worked the offensive end of the floor but couldn’t find a way to put the ball in the basket.

The Bulls came out of the locker room and couldn’t have looked more lethargic.  The Wolves tied the game at 51 in the first three minutes of the game thanks to the efforts of Rubio and Martin.  After the timeout, the game became a Free Throw contest, with both teams leaving a good number of points on the table.  At the end of the 3rd quarter, the Bulls held a 73-67 advantage.

Zach LaVine entered the 4th quarter with two minutes gone by and tried to take over the game.  It worked for a little while, but with the Wolves down by two points on two different occasions, LaVine turned the ball over that led to a Jimmy Butler layup and then grabbed a defensive rebound and dribbled the ball all the way down the court and took missed an off-balance layup.  LaVine then made and assisted on the Wolves next two baskets, but subsequently didn’t rotate or get his hands up on a made three-pointer from Aaron Brooks.

Flip Saunders saw the same thing and called a timeout, replacing LaVine with Rubio.  The moral of the story?  We are still seeing the ups and downs on a minute by minute basis with the rookie.

That three-pointer from Brooks opened up an 84-79 lead for the Bulls and could have been the dagger.  However, the Timberwolves scored the next six points to take an 85-84 lead with about five minutes to play.  Unfortunately for the Pups, they went cold from that point forward, missing shots, turning the ball over, and most frustratingly, missing free throws.  The combination of all three led a 12-4 Bulls charge past the Timberwolves and a 96-89 victory for the home team.

A few notes from the game:

  • Two Wolves had double-doubles – Pekovic with 12 points / 11 rebounds and Rubio with 15 points / 10 assists.
  • Andrew Wiggins was only 4-10 from the line, with the team going 21-31 from the stripe for the evening.  That is a nice way to lose a close game.
  • Gorgui Dieng had 3 turnovers in 25 minutes, but it feels like Flip has way too quick of a leash on the second year pro relative to others.
  • Unrelated to Friday’s action specifically, RIP Earl Lloyd, the first African American to ever play in the NBA who passed away on Friday at the age of 86.


Timberpups Weekly Preview – Post All-Star Weekend

Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine impressed during All-Star Weekend and will look to bring that energy to the second half of the Timberpups season. (Credit: NBAE/ Getty Images)

Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine impressed during All-Star Weekend and will look to bring that energy to the second half of the Timberpups season. (Credit: NBAE/ Getty Images)


Setting the stage:

The NBA gets back to the grind Thursday and Friday night after an eventful All-Star Break that saw the young Pups take center stage.  While the season has slogged along, aided by the significant injuries to key players, the Wolves were able to make some noise during the break and put a little bit of spotlight on the young, potential stars on the roster – Andrew Wiggins, as well as Zach LaVine, Gorgui Dieng, and Shabazz Muhammad.

The Timberwolves open up their post-Break with a home game against the Phoenix Suns on Friday night and then move into the following week with four more games.  At 11-42 thus far on the season, fans are more interested to see what tweaks might be made to the roster (or future draft picks) as we close in on the NBA trade deadline.  Timberwolves’ fans will then pivot their attention to ping pong balls as the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers continue their tanking ways.

Here is a preview of the next five games:

Game 54: Friday, 2/20, 7pm – Phoenix Suns @ Timberpups (TV: FSN Plus)

The Suns enter the second half of the season as the 8 seed in the Western Conference but have the OKC Thunder right on their heels.  To make matters worse, Goran Dragic has told the club he won’t be resigning with them this summer.  The team is reportedly looking to move Dragic before the trade deadline so that they don’t lose him for nothing.  It could be an interesting dynamic to watch on Friday night.

The Wolves lost twice to Phoenix in mid-January, one on each team’s court.  However, the game in Minnesota was a nailbiter, with the Suns pulling out a 113-111 victory.  The teams combined to score 75 points in the final quarter, with the Suns outdueling the Wolves 42-33 to take the victory.

Opponent to watch:

Eric Bledsoe – Pick a Guard of your choosing as the Suns have a plethora of talent in the backcourt.

Game 55: Monday, 2/23, 7pm – Timberpups @ Houston Rockets (TV: FS North)

It’s Flip Saunders vs. Kevin McHale night in Houston!  There hasn’t been this many past and present Timberwolves coaches on the same court since … Friday, December 5th when the Wolves lost to the Rockets in overtime.

Opponent to watch:

James Harden – Harden put in 38 points in that OT victory against the Wolves and Wiggins will have his hands full trying to guard one of the very best offensive players in the NBA.

Game 56: Wednesday, 2/25, 7pm – Washington Wizards @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

Wait a minute, we’re getting McHale and then Randy Wittman two nights later?  Did Flip make the schedule himself?  If it weren’t for the incredible season the Atlanta Hawks are having, the Wizards would be in serious contention for the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference … with Wittman as their Head Coach.

Opponent to watch:

John Wall – 17+ points and 10+ assists per game and you still don’t hear THAT much about Wall.  He’s going to give Ricky Rubio fits.

Game 57: Friday, 2/27, 7pm – Timberpups @ Chicago Bulls (TV: FS North)

The Bulls defeated the Pups on 11/1 earlier this season, 106-105.  Kevin Martin had 33 points and Rubio had 17 assists but the Bulls came through at the end hitting clutch free throws to put the game away.

Opponent to watch:

Jimmy Butler – Butler was the player who hit those two free throws at the end of the game.  Jimmy is also likely target 1A, 1B, or 1C on most Wolves’ fans free agency lists this coming offseason.

Game 58: Saturday, 2/28, 7pm – Memphis Grizzlies @ Timberpups (TV: FSN Plus)

The Timberpups lost the season opener in Memphis but defeated the Grizzlies shortly before the All-Star Break.  You may remember this game as the one where Rubio willed his team to victory, returning to the court after rolling his ankle and causing hearts to skip a few beats.

Opponent to watch:

Zach Randolph – Randolph was a no-show in the Wolves’ victory against the Grizzlies in their last meeting.  It will be interesting to see if his teammates force-feed him the ball to get him involved early and often.


The scheduling gods do the Wolves no favors again to start the second half of the season.  Tough opponents and the team continues to travel back and forth from Minnesota after each game.

Here is to staying healthy and not doing anything dumb at the trade deadline!  Let’s go Wolves!

Minnesota Timberwolves 97 – Chicago Bulls 104

Source: Timberwolves Facebook page

Source: Timberwolves Facebook page

Game Summary

After a quick trip out west, the Minnesota Timberwolves returned to the Target Center for a Sunday evening game against the Chicago Bulls.  The Wolves were victorious Friday night against a hapless Phoenix Suns team.  The Bulls were coming off a big victory Saturday night against the Indiana Pacers.

The Wolves opened up with the following lineup – Rubio, Ridnour, Kirilenko, Williams, and Pekovic.  The Bulls continue to miss Derrick Rose, while Joakim Noah missed his second straight game.  They were also without Rip Hamilton.  Given all of this, the Bulls starting lineup consisted of Kirk Hinrich, Jimmy Butler, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, and Nazr Mohammed.

Going into the first timeout of the game, the Wolves held a 12-10 lead.  The only Bulls player doing anything positive for the team on the offensive end was Hinrich, who had 8 of the team’s 10 points.  Each of the Wolves’ starters contributed at least 2 points.  However, coming out of the timeout, the Bulls came alive, going on a 9-2 run to take their first lead of the game.

At the end of the 1st, the Bulls held a 23-16 lead, continuing their run for the remainder of the quarter.  They dominated the Pups on the offensive boards, with 11 offensive rebounds in the 1st quarter.  By comparison, the Wolves had 1 offensive rebound and 10 total rebounds in the quarter.  Chicago was led by Hinrich and Deng, while the Ricky Rubio was doing his part to lead the Wolves.  Unfortunately, the Wolves frontline looked completely overmatched.

The 2nd quarter got off to a rough start for the Wolves as well.  Adelman had to burn a timeout within the first three minutes, as the Bulls doubled up the Wolves on the scoreboard 12-6 to start the quarter and took a 35-22 lead.  Nate Robinson provided a spark for the Bulls in the quarter, with 9 points and 6 assists during his time on the floor.

The Bulls do an excellent job of slowing down a game and frustrating their opponent.  The Wolves fell victim on both accounts in the 1st half.  The body language was not good and the amount of complaining to the officials was overdone.  The only Pup that really stood out in the half was Dante Cunningham, who had 8 points in the half, but didn’t have a single rebound.

At the half, the Bulls held a 56-43 advantage after a wild final seconds.  The Bulls grabbed a defensive rebound and Nate Robinson threw a beautiful lob to Taj Gibson for a slam.  However, with about four seconds on the clock, the Wolves had enough time to get up the court, leading to a Derrick Williams rainbow three pointer that went in as time expired.  Williams was overheard calling glass.  (OK, not really)

Here are a couple of halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:

  • The Wolves broadcast announced during the 1st quarter that Kevin Love would send x-rays to NY on his hand later this week and he could be cleared to play thereafter.  Love said his shooting has improved greatly.
  • It was 80’s night at the Target Center Sunday night.  However, the team wore their current uniforms?  Would have liked to have seen the original uniforms from 1989.
  • There were a number of Bulls fans in the crowd, as they could clearly be heard over the TV broadcast.

Ricky Rubio came out of the locker room and was fired up.  He was creating havoc on the floor in the early minutes of the 3rd quarter.  With a little over five minutes to play in the quarter, the Wolves were finally able to get the lead down to single digits, forcing a Chicago timeout.  Rubio was doing everything in his power to get the team back in the game and it looked like it was finally starting to rub off on the other Pups.

Chicago was able to counter every mini-run the Wolves made and at the end of the 3rd quarter, maintained a double digit lead, 78-68.  Carlos Boozer came alive in the quarter and had already amassed a double-double (15 & 10) by the end of the 3rd.  On the Wolves’ end, Pekovic and Williams had decent 3rd quarters, but Andrei Kirilenko was MIA.

Minnesota tried to claw back into the game multiple times in the 4th quarter as well.  Completely against the season long trend, the team caught fire from long range, with three’s from Budinger, Shved, and Williams to cut the lead to single digits again.  Carlos Boozer clearly had other plans on the night, as he continued to put the Bulls on his back and end each Wolves run.

Despite their efforts in the 2nd half, the Wolves were never able to overcome the deficit and fell to Chicago 104-97.  Overall, it was an enjoyable game to watch, just didn’t have the outcome Wolves fans would want.

Keys of the Game

  • Rebounding – The clear differentiator in tonight’s game.  The Bulls owned the offensive boards, grabbing 20 of them Sunday night, while the Wolves were only able to grab 6.  Those advantages carried right over to total rebounds as well, with the Bulls holding a 52-32 advantage on the night.
  • Effort – The Pups looked incredibly flat in the 1st half.  Ridnour, Pekovic, and Kirilenko all looked worn down (and were virtually non-existent).  Despite playing Saturday night, the Bulls came out as the more aggressive team and that helped them build and maintain their lead throughout much of the game.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Carlos Boozer – Always seemed to have the answer when the Wolves made a run and owned the boards throughout the evening.  Boozer finished with 19 points & 12 rebounds.
  2. Nate Robinson – Chicago’s sparkplug helped build the lead in the 1st half and drove home a dagger three pointer in the 4th quarter.  Robinson finished with 22 points & 10 assists.
  3. Jimmy Butler – A very strong performance from Butler tonight; 20 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 steals.