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Bulls blow big lead and lose to Timberwolves in Tom Thibodeau’s return to Chicago

The Bulls started out great in this game but they ended up on the losing end against their former coach

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Chicago Bulls Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

It was an emotional night for many as Tom Thibodeau returned to the United Center. Although the team did not give him a video tribute, Thibs meant a lot to the Chicago Bulls and the crowd showed their gratitude towards him despite the bad blood between Thibs and the front office. Thibodeau got the last laugh tonight as the Minnesota Timberwolves came back from a 20-point deficit and stun the Bulls 99-94.

Chicago blitzed Minnesota in the first quarter, jumping out to a 26-6 lead with less than seven minutes into the game. It was a pretty balanced Bulls scoring attack to begin the quarter. Robin Lopez and Jerian Grant, who got the start in place of Rajon Rondo (ankle), scored 18 of the Bulls first 30 points. Jimmy Butler was also pitching in but played more of a facilitating role by dishing out five assists. The Timberwolves recovered slightly thanks to Andrew Wiggins knocking down some shots and Gorgui Dieng making the Bulls pay for not closing out to him on the pick and roll. But despite that, it was still a very strong start by the Bulls as they led 38-22 at the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter was a much different story for the Bulls. At the beginning of the quarter, it was much of the same that we saw in the first 12 minutes of the game. The Bulls were just taking advantage of poor defense by the Timberwolves and were finding very easy baskets at the rim. Doug McDermott was cutting into the lane from the left side and made some crazy finishes at the basket. He had eight points at the half with many of them coming around the rim. But the second half of the quarter saw the T-Wolves start to play real defense and that turned into them having confidence on the other end of the court. Wiggins and Dieng kept knocking down shots and it helped Minnesota finish the quarter on a 22-5 run. Apart from Minnesota knocking down shots, the Bulls went ice cold from the field to finish off that half. Some of the credit obviously goes to Minnesota playing better as said earlier, but the Bulls missed their last seven shots and started settling for jumpers, which made the T-Wolves job easier. Thanks to the big run, Minnesota was only down four at the half with the score being 56-52.

Minnesota continued to stick around in the third quarter and ended up tying the game at 61 with less than five minutes gone by, completing the comeback. They took the lead the very next possession when Zach LaVine was left open in the corner and knocked down the triple. The opening parts featured a couple of great dunks, including one from Taj Gibson when he dunked on Dieng’s head following on offensive rebound.

They got some breathing room in the third thanks to back-to-back baskets by Karl Anthony-Towns and Wiggins that put them up four. It was a 25-point swing since the run they had in the second quarter and the Bulls looked like they didn’t have any answers offensively. But it was only a three-point lead for the youngsters as they lead 78-75 at the end of the third. It could have been a lot worse if not for Lopez, who made two key blocks and a tip-in in the final minutes of the quarter. Jimmy Butler’s 34 court heave clanked off the front rim to end a surprisingly good quarter for the T-Wolves and a so-so one for the Bulls.

In the 4th, a battle of the duos was established on both sides. It was the duo of Wiggins-Towns for the Wolves and it was the obvious Butler-Wade combo for Chicago. Butler was getting to the basket and drawing fouls while Wade was being a facilitator, including an alley-oop to Cristiano Felicio. The Bulls retook the lead when Felicio pulled down an offensive rebound off a Mirotic miss, gave it to Butler at the top of three-point line and he drove it all the way to the hoop for the layup. The game remained back and forth up until the end where things got interesting. Minnesota had a four-point lead with 2:58 left until that was cut in half thanks to a Wade lob to Butler, which brought the UC to life. Wiggins had his pass deflected the very next possession and a Butler jumper on the other end had the game knotted up at 91 with 90 seconds left. Wiggins answered right back with a jumper right in Butlers face and Wade had his stepback three not even hit rim. Then Chicago suffered a mental lapse, allowing LaVine to slip behind the defense and give Minny a four-point lead with 52.3 seconds left. Butler’s step back didn’t go down but Chicago had another chance, which saw Wade get his shot blocked by KAT. Then Wade proceeded to yell at the referee and got ejected with two quick technicals. That essentially ended the game as Minnesota completed the comeback with a 99-94 win.

Butler was the leading scorer for the Bulls with 27 points and 9 rebounds. LaVine was the leading scorer for Minnesota with 24 points and Wiggins pitched in 23 points as well.