With Jimmy Butler out and the Timberwolves on a SEGABABA after a blowout loss to the Rockets in Houston, I thought the Bulls had a decent chance of stealing a win on Saturday night in Minnesota. The Bulls were competitive for three quarters, but their offense fell apart amid a barrage of Jamal Crawford 3-pointers to start the fourth quarter and the game turned into a rout. When the dust settled, the Timberwolves earned a 122-104 win.
The Bulls started poorly and fell behind by 12 points in the first quarter, but they reversed course with a monster 38-point second quarter. Led by Point Zach LaVine, the Bulls were pushing the ball off makes and misses alike and getting easy buckets against a porous Timberwolves defense. LaVine was terrific running the show in the frame, showing pick-and-roll proficiency and getting buckets of his own. David Nwaba was also a terror in transition, and the Bulls took a two-point lead into the break.
The Bulls opened up a five-point lead early in the third quarter and looked like they may start to run away from the Wolves, but Jeff Teague stopped the bleeding and Karl-Anthony Towns woke up after playing one of the worst halves I’ve ever seen him play. The game stayed close throughout the rest of the quarter, although Crawford’s triple to give the Wolves a four-point lead at the end of it was a sign of things to come. Crawford made three more triples in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter, and all of a sudden that four-point game was a 17-point game. The Bulls never threatened again, although Thibs Thib’d by playing his starters deep into the final frame.
LaVine didn’t have the best shooting night (7 of 17 overall, 0 of 4 from 3), but he had a nice line with 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds. As mentioned, he looked comfortable running the offense and was dynamic in pick-and-roll, whether he was finding Cristiano Felicio on dives to the basket or finding shooters (he had a nice pass to Kris Dunn in the corner for a 3-pointer). Felicio even had 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting, in large part because LaVine was looking for him rolling to the basket. Felicio also had a really nice block, so it was nice to see him actually do some of the things that earned him his four-year contract.
Nwaba (14 and 9) and Bobby Portis (15 points) had their moments, but nobody else stood out, though I’ll also point out that Noah Vonleh hit a pair of triples. Unfortunately, Dunn and Lauri Markkanen were both bad again. Dunn hit a few jumpers but shot just 4 of 12 and had more turnovers (4) than assists (2). Markkanen had his second straight game in which he only scored three points on 1-of-8 shooting. Markkanen’s jumper has been really off for a while now, and you have to wonder if he’s hitting a bit of a rookie wall. It also likely didn’t help that he didn’t get much of an All-Star break.
Without Butler, the Wolves nearly had five guys score 20 points. Jeff Teague destroyed the Bulls all night en route to 25/7/7, while Andrew Wiggins added 23 points. Towns had 18 of his 22 points in the second half. Crawford and Taj Gibson both poured in 19 points.
The Bulls are now 20-39, but all the teams below them in the standings continue to lose. They face one of those teams on Monday when they travel to Brooklyn to face the Nets.