Down 1 with three seconds remaining, the Bulls went to Jimmy Butler as the go-to guy and he delivered as he did in his entire game, his first of the season: getting to the line. Butler hit FTs 10 and 11 on the night to get the Bulls the win, drawing rookie Andrew Wiggins in the air for a foul with .2 seconds remaining.
Butler had 24 points on 12 shots in the 40 minutes (heh) of his return. Butler came out ultra-aggressive, and with the Bulls being without Derrick Rose, Butler really is one of the better candidates to try and create offense. And he did it in the way we've seen a lot of this preseason: just barelling into the lane every chance he got. Butler really is a tank, and though he seemingly landed on that bandaged thumb early in the game he looked ok, taking it to the Wolves defense constantly. He even KO'd Thaddeus Young in the first half on a 50/50 ball, and fouled out Ricky Rubio on another.
Butler had his hands full defensively with Kevin Martin unloading for a game-high 33 points, with his 4-6 from three supplying the only three-point makes for his entire team. The Bulls did not have a great defensive or rebounding game overall (no Taj Gibson tonight either) and it almost cost them, as they were getting burned on switches and allowed 3 offensive rebounds on the Martin three-pointer that put them up one in those final seconds.
The 4th quarter was sloppy overall, with doing nearly all their work at the FT line and relying on a steady diet of Pau Gasol post-ups. It was a downgrade from what was a really pretty offensive first half. The Bulls had a blistering 36-point 2nd quarter on the way to 63 first-half points, helped by going 7/14 from three-point range. Aaron Brooks hit his first 4 shots off the bench and had 13 points to co-lead with Butler. Nikola Mirotic had the nicest stretch of his young career taking the Taj Gibson role for 12 points, perhaps most encouraging in that he had 17 minutes to do it. Mirotic was a bit gun-shy early with several pump-fakes but quickly settled in to some nice playmaking, including this move:
The Timberwolves responded with a big 3rd quarter, scoring at will to start (provoking an AngryThibsTimeout) with some damage done by Kevin Martin and Andrew Wiggins. The Wolves eventually tied the game but the bleeding would've been worse if they didn't foul so much, 12 times in that quarter leading to 17 FTAs for the Bulls. Butler and Brooks had a quick 9-0 run after the tie (including a Jimmy 3!) but the Wolves were still within 4 entering the 4th.
The Bulls didn't look great but they also played like the more veteran team that they are compared to the Wolves, who had several miscues and silly fouls that went up until the one that cost them the game. Gasol was in a real battle with Nikola Pekovic, but ultimately bested him 20 points to Pek's 17, with 6 coming in the 4th quarter. He was 6-9 from the line as the Bulls were 31-40 overall. Again, not so pretty of a 2nd half but they avoided blowing the game, one where Derrick Rose got some rest.