After doing absolutely nothing at the trade deadline, your still-shorthanded Chicago Bulls absolutely, positively needed to beat a Minnesota Timberwolves club that has surprised with its competence this season. And beat them they did, posting a 134-122 victory in a high-scoring affair despite a rare off-night at home from All-Star shooting guard Zach LaVine.
The team’s 134 points represents a season high, on a season-most 55 field goal makes. Chicago connected on a whopping 63.2% of its field goal attempts, besting Minnesota’s still-good 50%.
The victory was a concerted team effort from the Bulls’ current top eight, with four Bulls scoring 20+ points and two others scoring in double digits. DeMar DeRozan went off for his fifth straight 30+ point game. Nikola Vucevic almost had a triple-double. Coby White had a nuclear night from deep, detonating in the game’s second half for six triples. Rookie guard Ayo Dosunmu, back after sitting for the Bulls’ victory over the Hornets due to concussion protocols, had a 14-point, 10-assist double double in nearly 42 minutes.
Billy Donovan opted to tighten his rotation, mercifully ending the Matt Thomas Experience and limiting Malcolm Hill to just 4:17 minutes of game action. White, Tony Bradley (who actually looked okay tonight!), and Troy Brown Jr. all played double-digit minutes off the bench.
DeRozan, in the midst of the season of his life, had some typically amazing midrange masterpieces:
But the star of the show, at least for this writer, was Javonte Green. The swarming 6’5” forward out of Radford University has been a revelation for Chicago all season as a key role player, and tonight he enjoyed his finest offensive performance (and yet another great defensive turn) as a Bull. He tied his NBA career high of 23 points, on a psychotically efficient 10-of-13 field goal attempts (including 3-of-4 treys!), while also pulling down four boards. He scrambled for loose balls, dunked mercilessly over a variety of victims, and generally assuaged this writer’s fears that the Bulls made a grave mistake not adding some front court size at the deadline. Hey, there’s always the buyout market.
Chicago’s continued depth issues were glaring early, as the Bulls struggled to maintain an early eight-point lead midway through the opening quarter while leaning on little-used reserves like Troy Brown Jr. and Malcolm Hill. Minnesota, led by the spirited offensive of All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns and second-year wing Anthony Edwards, plus the scrappy defense of Chicago’s own Patrick Beverley along the perimeter, got right back into the game, crawling all the way back to knot the score late into the frame. Green got off to a hot start early, scoring nine points in the period, scoring off cuts and corner threes alike. A clutch Coby White buzzer-beating baseline jumper, rebounded off his own miss, tied up the quarter, 27-27.
Green kept the good times rolling in the second quarter with several gravity-defying dunks. The Bulls struggled with turnovers early. Zach was weirdly deferential early on, looking to pass more than score (he ultimately had six assists — and four turnovers!). Though he played nearly 37 minutes tonight, he did not look like his typical high-flying self. Could his back spasms still be bugging him? He finished the night with just 12 points on 5-of-14 shooting.
The Bulls led by just a point at halftime, 60-59.
In the third quarter, KAT bullied his way into a series of layups, ultimately scoring 11 points (eight in the paint) for the frame. The Bulls kept pace, thanks in large part to White and Vucevic. Chicago really woke up near the end of the period, going on a 6-0 run thanks to a pair of Coby triples and some solid defense from Coby and Ayo, who nabbed a steal apiece.
With Edwards and Towns on the bench, Chicago finally took its first double-digit lead in the fourth quarter. Coby’s excellent sniping, mostly off catch-and-shoot looks, continued:
Chicago finally pulled away for good thanks to a 21-10 run in the middle of the period, with key jumpers nailed by White and Vucevic.
A little later, with Chicago sitting pretty thanks to a comfortable 124-110 advantage, Javonte tied his career-high output of 23 points with this violent, mildly scary dunk:
JAVONTE GREEN IS GOING OFF— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) February 12, 2022
And hopefully he is okay pic.twitter.com/wBXHvIyoH6
Javonte’s night was done 20 seconds after this, but the game was, happily, already in hand. Here’s hoping he’s good to go tomorrow night against the Thunder. We’re going to need that energy in a potential trap game.