Two veteran-laden Midwest rosters with major chemistry issues and not a ton of future draft picks will collide tonight when the spiraling 11-17 Chicago Bulls take on the 14-15 Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Bulls, losers of three straight, seem to have reached the nadir of their season so far after dropping its two previous games to the streaking New York Knicks at home, the second a listless blowout Friday. Chicago has gone just 3-7 across its last ten bouts. Chicago’s “Big Three” of All-Star small forward DeMar DeRozan and former All-Stars Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic, all of whom make their money on the offensive side of the floor, have yet to find a rhythm together this season.
The Timberwolves haven’t fared much better in that same window, having gone 4-6.
The Timberwolves’ own “Big Three” of All-Star center Rudy Gobert, former All-Star center-turned-power forward Karl-Anthony Towns, and, perhaps, future All-Star Anthony Edwards has also struggled to mesh, which has led to Edwards complaining that he hasn’t seen the ball enough. KAT has been out since late November due to a strained right calf, and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks overall. With Towns out of the lineup during Minny’s last eight contests, the team has gone 4-4, while starting 6’9” third-year power forward Jaden McDaniels alongside Gobert.
So how will Chicago fare, at home, against another pretty mediocre, beatable team?
Chicago will lose. I don’t know by how much (Vegas oddsmakers on The Action Network project the Bulls to win, with a spread set at a modest 1.5 points), but the margin of defeat is now the real element of uncertainty with this Bulls team that just isn’t very good at shooting the ball (as we have litigated many times, Chicago ranks dead last in three-point takes by a comfortable margin) or guarding and/or retrieving it on the other end. Unfortunately, you kind of need to do those things well to win basketball games.
Beyond yet another probable defeat, here are three predictions for other things to watch:
1. Rudy Gobert will massacre Nikola Vucevic.
This is no great feat, necessarily, as Vooch has been roundly outplayed by a whole lot of centers this season so far, surely with many more to come. That trend will certainly continue tonight, against a three-time Defensive Player of the Year.
2. Patrick Williams will look overwhelmed when it matters most.
The Bulls’ (for now) starting power forward will probably have a couple nice defensive plays and make some open threes. Then we’ll wonder why he takes 1 shot in the second half.
3. The team will fall into a hole by halftime, and a clutch DeMar DeRozan third quarter will help Chicago’s probable loss look a bit more respectable and keep their net rating looking ok.
DDR just might be the Bulls’ best chance, yet again, to win close ball games. We’ll certainly need him to.
My fingers are crossed I wind up being wrong on all of these, but I doubt it.
Gobert (sprained left ankle) is questionable to play, as one-time All-Star D’Angelo Russell. Towns, Taurean Prince, and Jordan McLaughlin are all out.
Among Bulls rotation players, guard Ayo Dosunmu (pelvic contusion) and forward Javonte Green (sore right knee) are probable to play.
Game Time: 6 PM CT
TV: NBC Sports Chicago