It was kind of like old times: Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, and Tom Thibodeau back at the United Center, and the Bulls pulling off an improbable win at home on national TV: beating their old pals 114-113 in a very entertaining back and forth game.
Jimmy Butler and Zach LaVine had a duel on the big return game for Butler (and Taj!) at the United Center. It ended with Jimmy fouling LaVine on a three pointer after which Zach hit all three attempts. Then on the final possession, down one, Karl Anthony Towns missed a three followed by a Butler miss at the buzzer as the clock expired. It ended what had been an especially ugly 7 game losing streak for the Bulls.
Both guys put up a lot of shots and forced things at times, but you can’t argue with the productivity. Butler had 38 points in 41 minutes on 11-26 shooting, with 5 assists and 4 steals as well. LaVine nearly matched him with 35 points on 12-26 shooting. It was looking through the first half like it was going to be a ho-hum LaVine game where he shot a lot and was bad defensively, but he turned it on in the 4th to be the go-to option that was needed. He had several attempts right at Butler where his leaping ability allowed him to gain the necessary separation, and finished with 15 points in the 4th quarter alone.
The first half had the Bulls hanging on somehow though it seemed like the TWolves were playing a lot better. There was a LOT of Robin Lopez. In the first game since the trade deadline, the often-rumored-over Lopez had 16 points at half, and was a big part of making Karl-Anthony Towns’s life miserable in this one. Towns had two early fouls and only attempted a single field goal in that first half.
The TWolves went on a big run in the 2nd quarter, where Butler hit 5 straight shots including a nearly half-court three to cap the half with 20 points. He then hit a three to start the third period and it looked like the Bulls would roll over.
But instead it was the Wolves who faltered, totally careless and getting beat to the ball often. Jeff Teague had a 4-on-2 where he waited at the 3 point line for everyone to recover only to then quickly throw the ball away. The Bulls went on a 19-5 run to tie the game and took a small lead into the 4th.
Tom Thibodeau did his simple strategy move that he does: when the other team puts in the bench, just...don’t. Butler entered at the start of the 4th quarter and a couple makes plus commanding a ton of attention even on his misses had the Wolves creep back ahead. The Wolves were extremely cold from the floor sill but got in the penalty extremely early and were able to produce from the line.
The Bulls just made more plays down the stretch, led by LaVine who had a quick 5 points sandwhiching a Wolves turnover to bring the game back even. Then it was a tough Butler make that preceded the LaVine foul attempt, and the chaotic and emotional final play.
Bulls had 5 other players in double figures, including a returning Lauri Markkanen who showed more brilliance but only had 7 field goal attempts on the night.