After being up by as much as 19, the Chicago Bulls let another lead slip through their grasp and looked to be on the ropes in crunch time against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Thanks to Karl-Anthony Towns’ monster fourth quarter, the Wolves held a 108-106 lead with 2:15 left after a pair of Bulls defensive breakdowns resulted in easy Towns buckets.
That would be the last time the Wolves would score until Towns got his 40 points on a garbage-time bucket in the final seconds.
The Bulls rallied back and went on an 11-2 run to secure the win. It was the Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine show at the end, with the duo combining to score all of Chicago’s points during those two minutes. They were responsible for not only the Bulls tying the game but for taking the lead again, and this time they didn’t let it go. Minnesota had a disastrous final few minutes: four missed 3-pointers, a turnover, and two more Andrew Wiggins free throws. It was a brutal stretch for a team that is now on a seven-game losing streak. It ended up being a 117-110 victory for the Bulls, but it might have not happened if they didn’t take immediate control back after the big bucket by Towns gave Minnesota the lead.
Let’s take a look at the two plays which saved the game for Chicago.
Dunn had a pretty good game against Minnesota. He scored 14 points, with eight of them coming from the free-throw line. Dunn was being aggressive and focusing much of his offensive energy inside the paint. He only took one 3-point attempt and made all three of his shots at the rim. So it would make sense for him to go toward the bucket on Chicago’s biggest possession of the game:
The play began with a simple pick-and-roll on the other side with Tomas Satoransky and Lauri Markkanen. Minnesota switched on the play, with Towns sagging back a bit and Robert Covington scrambling to the 3-point line. Markkanen was open for a few seconds and appeared prime to receive the pass from Satoransky. Seeing Markkanen open set off alarm bells for Shabazz Napier, who was guarding Dunn. He turned away from Dunn and moved toward Markkanen to at least be there to contest if the ball came that way. But it never did. Covington was back in time and suddenly Napier was out of position. He was guarding space and his man was already by him. Dunn noticed an open space in the paint and raced by Napier. This all happened in a matter of seconds, but it was all Dunn needed to make a quick cut to the basket. He received the pass and flipped it up for the tying score.
After a bad miss by Covington, Chicago had the chance to re-take the lead. As expected, they looked to their best offensive player to get them a bucket. It was a decent scoring night for LaVine. He shot 8-of-18 from the field and led the team with 25 points along with five rebounds. LaVine went 3-of-6 from 3-point land, and his biggest one came with 1:30 left on the clock:
Again the Bulls ran the Sato-Markkanen pick-and-roll combination. This time the Wolves didn’t switch and Towns wound up rushing over after Markkanen received the pass at the top of the 3-point line. Markkanen put up a pump fake but Towns didn’t go for it and quickly closed the space between them. Instead of forcing a shot over Towns, Markkanen moved toward LaVine, who was sitting in the left corner. Markkanen ran a dribble hand-off and stepped in front of Covington, who was guarding LaVine on this play. In an apparent attempt to take away the threat of LaVine getting the ball and having a free path to go downhill, Covington went under the pick set by Markkanen. By failing to fight through, time and space opened up for LaVine to set his feet for an open 3-pointer, which he splashed with ease.
This game looked to be following the same path as some of the crushing losses we’ve seen from the Bulls earlier this season. They build up a big lead just to watch it crumble away while the offense goes cold. But this time it was different. Thanks to big buckets from LaVine and Dunn, the Bulls were able to see the victory through.