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.