If there’s anything we can actually count on with the Bulls these days, it’s that they can slay bums while Zach LaVine hits just enough big shots to do it. That’s exactly what happened in the Bulls’ 117-110 victory over the Wolves on Wednesday night, and in typical Bulls fashion, they made it much more difficult than it should have been.
The Bulls ran out to a 19-point lead early in the second quarter against a Wolves squad that could kindly be described as disinterested. The Wolves turned the ball over nine times in the first quarter, with a number of them of the unforced variety. Meanwhile, the Bulls faced little resistance driving to the basket, scoring 22 of their 35 first-quarter points in the paint.
Of course, the Bulls weren’t able to sustain their dominance, and the Wolves chipped away at that big lead as the half came to a close. A Kris Dunn technical foul for shoving Shabazz Napier seemed to wake Minnesota up a bit, and the lead was down to seven at halftime after a very questionable call went against LaVine on a Napier 3-point attempt to close the half.
The Wolves reeled the Bulls in by midway through the third quarter, and the game stayed close the rest of the way. Andrew Wiggins finally woke up out of his slumber after being totally invisible/awful in the first half (22 of 25 points in second half), and Minnesota actually outscored the Bulls 23-17 after Karl-Anthony Towns went out of the game with four fouls.
Towns returned and dominated offensively in the fourth quarter, racking up 18 of his 40 points in the frame. But he was giving it right back on the other end as the Bulls scored almost at will. Even Cristiano Felicio was getting in on the action, constantly hammering the offensive boards and scoring six big points in the fourth quarter.
The Bulls finally found their 3-point shooting in the final frame as well, with LaVine and Markkanen hitting two big ones apiece. LaVine’s second 3-pointer of the quarter broke a 108-108 tie with 1:26 to play and was part of an 11-2 run to finish the game after the Wolves had just taken a 108-106 lead thanks to a pair of Towns baskets against a small Bulls lineup.
LaVine finished the game with 25 points on 8-of-18 shooting after a sluggish first three quarters. Markkanen hit the 20-point mark for the first time since Jan. 6, scoring 21 points on 6-of-14 shooting after coming out of the gate aggressively. The Bulls are now 4-2 when LaVine and Markkanen both hit the 20-point mark.
Perhaps more shockingly, the Bulls got major contributions from the duo of Kornet and Felicio. Kornet started fast and finished with 15 points in 18 minutes, while Felicio had 12 points and 10 rebounds (seven offensive) off the bench after entering the game with nine points scored on the season. Felicio even started the second half over Kornet. The Bulls’ bench totally dominated the Wolves’ reserves, outscoring them 40-17.
Kris Dunn (14) and Coby White (12) also scored in double figures in a balanced scoring effort. Furthermore, the Bulls won the rebounding battle 50-43, outscored the Wolves 30-13 at the free-throw line and scored 25 points off 18 Wolves turnovers.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Bulls game without some Jimbo goofiness. First we had this:
Jim Boylen says Luke Kornet reminds him of Robert Horry. Stacey King could not contain his incredulity after hearing this news. pic.twitter.com/B9tkjUHEGQ— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) January 23, 2020
Then we had this:
Boylen said he did this to advance the ball. Timberwolves were pressing and he wanted to get ball inbounds.— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) January 23, 2020
Said postgame talk with Saunders was because they’ve known each other a long time and Boylen was close to Flip. https://t.co/OeHx9kn07I
Anyway, the Bulls are now 16-11 against teams below .500 and 1-18 against teams above .500, which is comical. They’ve also now won 10 home games this season to beat last season’s total, so the plate is growing. Since they keep bumslaying, they’re now back to just three games out of the No. 8 seed with several more bums coming up this weekend (Kings, Cavs). What this all means ... I have no idea but basically the Bulls are the best bad team.