With Derrick Rose on the shelf for the time being and Pau Gasol sick, the Bulls were already short-handed as is heading into their game against the Timberwolves on Friday night. Things got even worse in the first quarter when Taj Gibson exited the game with, you guessed it, another ankle injury.
What followed was a performance reminiscent of the past few years, a performance featuring a lot of bricks, a lot of offensive rebounds and just enough offense to pull out a 96-89 victory. The Bulls shot just 38.5 percent from the field and 9-of-31 overall from three, but they grabbed 22 offensive rebounds and outscored the Wolves 48-16 in the paint, which is pretty crazy considering the lack of depth in the frontcourt this evening.
As ugly as the game was, there were a few legitimate bright spots. Jimmy Butler was a monster, putting up 28 points and 12 rebounds (five offensive) on 11-of-19 shooting while playing every single position but center. Butler was the primary ball-handler down the stretch, but we also saw him playing the 4 for a few minutes.
The Bulls had some success with smallish lineups throughout this game, spreading the floor and letting Joakim Noah do his Point Center thing. Mike Dunleavy made some hay as a stretch 4 at several different points, and he bounced back from a no-show against the Hornets with 21 points. Dunleavy tied a season-high with five three-pointers, and like Butler, he contributed on the glass by grabbing eight rebounds. (four offensive)
Noah looked strong once again, just missing a triple-double with 11 points, 12 rebounds (four offensive) and eight assists. We've seen the offense run through Noah the last few games, and while it hasn't always been pretty, it's one of the Bulls' best ways to generate offense outside of Butler going ham.
The play of those three helped make up for poor performances from basically everybody else. Aaron Brooks was a sorry 2-of-15 from the field, and Kirk Hinrich did very little outside of a couple nice drives in the fourth quarter, plays where Nikola Pekovic's utter lack of rim protection was exposed badly. Nikola Mirotic went just 2-of-9, and Tony Snell went 4-of-12 after a hot start. At least Snell did this:
This game also saw some extended Nazr Mohammed minutes, which was blech, and first-half minutes for Doug McDermott. This was the first time McDermott has seen the floor in the first half since before his surgery. Amazingly, the Bulls didn't fall apart with McDermott on the floor.
All things considered, this was a pretty nice win, even if it was an ugly one. The Wolves aren't all that good, but they've been playing better lately with a more healthy roster. The Bulls were down several key players, so to pull out a victory was a plus. On to the next one.