Given that they were missing four regular players in Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade, Nikola Mirotic, and Paul Zipser, it was expected that this game was going to be a struggle for the Chicago Bulls. Especially considering how much they struggled against the Phoenix Suns even with Wade and Butler playing. But Chicago didn’t look like they had a chance, and the final score of 117-89 reflected that. It was another blowout loss on this road trip, this time it was thanks to former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.
The first quarter started off exactly the same way many thought when the Bulls announced their starting lineup of Grant/MCW/McDermott with Gibson/Lopez: badly. In the early minutes Chicago tried to establish a post presence. Basically everyone in their starting lineup was tried in the post with Robin Lopez being used the most often. But the plan didn’t work at all, with the Bulls scoring only nine points in the first eight minutes. It was a tough plan to execute to start with considering that there is no spacing allowing Minnesota to easily double knowing that there is no threat of a 3-point shot via kick-outs.
The defense didn’t show up either, which was sort of expected. Minnesota shot 63% in the first quarter with many of their baskets arriving in transition or in the paint. Many of them came from the combination of Ricky Rubio and Andrew Wiggins who took advantage of being guarded by Jerian Grant and MCW respectively. Before the Bulls knew what had hit them, it was 23-9 in favor of Minnesota. Fred Hoiberg tried to switch things up by bringing in his bench early and even ran the backcourt duo of MCW and Rondo. With the injuries, even Isaiah Canaan and Bobby Portis saw early minutes. But those switches could only do so much as Minnesota continued to dominate the game, holding a 34-17 lead at the end of the first.
It was more of the same for the Bulls, as in that they couldn’t score on one end and were getting manhandled in the paint. Minnesota’s starters weren’t the only unit having a good game, it was their bench as well. Shabazz Muhammed dropped 7 points in the second quarter, hitting on all three of his field goal attempts. The lead for the Timberwolves ballooned to as much as 26 with Thibs refusing his team to let his team take their foot off the gas. The last few minutes of the half served as positives for Chicago with them finally getting some stops along with hitting some jumpers on the other end. The Bulls were able to cut the lead down to 17 as the halftime score was 57-40 in favor of the home team.
It was the young duo of Karl Anthony-Towns and Wiggins who paced Minnesota in that first half. Wiggins dropped 16 while KAT pitched in 12 for a T-Wolves team that shot 57.1% from the field in the first half and had 30 points in the paint. But Minnesota was terrible from three, shooting just 1 of 11 (9.1%).
Chicago shot 41% from the floor in the first half and was led in scoring by Bobby Portis, who pitched in 9 points. In other words, this was a horrible first half for the Bulls and they were lucky to only be down 17.
With Minnesota commanding such a big lead, the second half was expected to be slow and painful. It started out that way, with the Bulls trying to find some source of life. Multiple times the Bulls were able to cut the lead under 20 but gave up an easy basket right back. But with a couple of minutes left in the third quarter, something clicked for the Bulls. They started getting hot from deep, with McDermott leading the charge. Chicago began to find space in transition and got some open three’s as a result.
A MCW three cut the lead to 13 with a little under three minutes left in the 3rd and suddenly the Bulls had some life. But Minnesota quickly recovered and got the lead right back to around the 20-point mark. After looking like they could possibly make this game interesting, Chicago lost all of their momentum gained in the third quarter and was down 84-65 to start the final quarter. That ending to the 3rd quarter also included watching MCW blow a 4 on 1 fastbreak, which was one of the worst turnovers you will ever see in a basketball game.
MCW just turned it over on a 4-on-1 fast break, very rough game for him. pic.twitter.com/AIS0kRJgtD— Stephen Noh (@hungarianjordan) February 12, 2017
Nothing really changed in the 4th quarter with mostly bench guys being on the court. With the game out of hand already, there wasn’t much to note other than some of the younger guys got some more playing time than usually. Not even Felicio could escape having a bad moment in this game, blowing a dunk after charging down the lane.
In a classic move, Thibs brought back his starters with around 8 minutes left to play which only extended the lead for Minnesota. They quickly went on a 9-0 run and almost made it a 30-point lead. But like I said earlier, nothing really happened to make this game interesting. In the end, it was a 117-89 victory for the Minnesota Timberwolves and another lifeless effort from the Bulls.
One interesting thing to point out was that this was a very good 3-point shooting game for the Bulls. They shot almost 42% from deep, knocking down 10 triples with McDermott hitting 4 of them. On the other hand Minnesota continued to shoot poorly from three, hitting just 5 of 22 (22.7%). Yet Chicago was still blown out by nearly 30 points.