After another losing to the Miami Heat at home nearly 24 hours ago, the Chicago Bulls traveled up north to face off against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Against their former coach and former players, the Bulls held firm for the first three quarters. But a 17-point 4th quarter combined with a 35 point night from T-Wolves big man Karl Anthony-Towns was the difference in a 111-96 loss.
Minnesota had a really rough start to the game, shooting just 28 percent from the field in the first quarter. However, they were able to keep pace with Chicago thanks to their dominance on the offensive glass. The Timberwolves had a whopping nine offensive rebounds as Dario Saric and Towns went to work on the boards. Chicago did a very poor job of boxing out, leading to easy second-chance points for the opposition.
Per usual, it was Zach LaVine who led the Bulls in scoring. He had nine points in the first and was his aggressive self, driving to the basket and making some really tough shots. LaVine helped facilitate a 7-0 run to finish the quarter. He scored two layups and found Antonio Blakeney in the corner for a 3. The surge gave Chicago a 22-20 lead at the end of one.
The second-quarter scares didn’t escape the Bulls in this game either. Minnesota opened on an 8-0 run in the first two minutes as their bench gave them a much-needed spark. It seemed like we were destined for a repeat of the Miami game, but thanks to two quick buckets from Jabari Parker, the Bulls got back into the game.
For the rest of the quarter, it was the trend of Minnesota trying to pull away and LaVine doing his best to keep his team in the game. With three minutes left to go in the half, the Bulls took their first lead in nearly eight minutes thanks to a run by LaVine and Parker. In fact, it was LaVine who did all the work as he scored six straight points to tie the game up at 46, followed by Parker’s layup to give Chicago a two-point lead. The run helped Chicago take a 50-49 lead into the half.
Despite shooting 25 percent from three (4-of-16), the Bulls played OK offensively in the first half. They shot 45.2 percent from the field and had 12 assists on 19 made field goals. LaVine led the way, scoring 17 points and hitting all five of his free throw attempts. Parker was the only other player in double digits with 13 points and four rebounds.
As for Minnesota, they were led by two starters in KAT and Jeff Teague. They combined for 25 points and did it on 11-of-19 shooting from the field. They were the two lone bright spots in the Minnesota starting lineup. Robert Covington went 0-of-11 and Andrew Wiggins went 0-of-9 in the first half as the other three starters for the T-Wolves scored a combined four points. Their bench gave them a spark with Saric and Derrick Rose dropping 8 points each.
Like in the first 24 minutes, the duo of Teague and Towns got Minnesota going in the latter 24 minutes. They were part of a quick 5-0 run, which gave the Wolves the lead less than two minutes into the second half. If the second quarter belonged to LaVine, it was Parker who took over the third. He scored 13 in the quarter and did it efficiently, too. This effort was similar to the one we saw in the fourth quarter against the Heat the other night. Thanks to Parker, the Bulls were able to keep the deficit to single digits.
It was another Chicago native in Rose who led the way for Minnesota in the third. He scored 10 in the quarter and even continued to shoot brilliantly from the 3-point line. Rose scored five of their last seven points and found Tyus Jones for a jumper with less than five seconds to go to put the gap at 84-79.
Chicago’s offense looked off to start the fourth quarter. Their first possession ended in a poor pass, which led to an easy dunk for Saric on the other end. It seemed to be a great bit of foreshadowing for how the rest of the game would go for the Bulls offensively. Scoring two points in the first five minutes of any quarter isn’t good, let alone the fourth.
As expected, Minnesota took advantage and expanded the lead to double digits with 7:15 to go. A KAT jumper a minute later prompted a Fred Hoiberg timeout as Chicago found themselves down 94-81. The Bulls had trouble stopping him all night, and it showed in the box score. He was already at 30 points halfway through the fourth as the Bulls had no way of stopping him. KAT scored eight of Minnesota’s first 12 points of the quarter, and within the blink of an eye, the Bulls were down 15.
The Bulls finally snapped their cold streak with a LaVine bank shot off a Justin Holiday miss. It ended a run during which the Bulls did not score from the field for nearly five minutes. These types of quarters are absolutely killer for the Bulls. The lead got to 20 thanks to a Saric 3-pointer with 3:46 left, which was effectively the dagger. Fred Hoiberg kept his starters out there for almost the rest of the game, but with Minnesota getting any shot offensively, the gap didn’t close. It was garbage time minutes from then on as Minnesota won a second game in two days with a final score of 111-96.
It was a monstrous night from Towns, who ended up with a tally of 35 points and 22 rebounds. He did it on 13-of-22 shooting and added six assists. Chicago had no answers for him in the post the entire game. Rose was the second-leading scorer for Minnesota with 22 points off the bench. Another stat which jumped out was Minnesota’s advantage on the glass. They outrebounded Chicago by a margin of 58 to 40 and had 21 offensive rebounds.
LaVine finished as the leading score for Chicago with 28 points with 9 made field goals on 17 attempts. He went 10-of-12 from the charity stripe and added eighth rebounds as well. Parker was just behind him with 27 points on 11-of-18 shooting and seven rebounds. Justin Holiday had another double double with 14 and 11, though he shot just 5-of-18 from the field. WCJ had 12 points but struggled to contain KAT.
Chicago has now lost back-to-back games, and things won't get any easier when they welcome the San Antonio Spurs to the United Center on Monday.