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Bulls vs. Timberwolves game preview and thread: how will Chicago blow this one?

another should-be-even matchup Bulls need to take advantage of

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NBA: Chicago Bulls at Minnesota Timberwolves Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

Hot off the heels of a last-second loss to the Sacramento Kings Wednesday, our 31-37 Chicago Bulls will host the visiting 35-35 Minnesota Timberwolves tonight at the United Center, as their three-game home stand continues. The Bulls face a quick turnaround, as they’ll next face another struggling Eastern Conference club, the Miami Heat, at home tomorrow.

That Kings game was probably the most disappointing Bulls moment of the week —

Oh wait. That’s right. Our $20 million/year starting point guard is going to have his third left knee surgery in 14 months, and is expected to miss possibly the entirety of the 2023-24 NBA season. Meaning we’ll have effectively paid him $60 million for 35 games. Not great, Bob.

Ball will have cartilage transplanted into the ailing joint. K.C. Johnson noted yesterday that another player who recently went under the knife for a cartilage transplant, former Warriors reserve big Festus Ezeli, never played again. Given how rough the reports have been about Lonzo’s recovery from his second knee surgery (remember how he couldn’t walk up stairs without pain?), we have to consider that outcome at least a possibility.

It’s been an incredibly depressing week — and season — to root for this Bulls organization, a group whose cheapness/laziness not only undermines the efficacy of its on-court product, but also potentially its treatment of its players’ medical health behind the scenes, as this is far from the first major Chicago player injury that has lingered long beyond its expected expiration date (Ball was supposedly going to return six-to-eight weeks after that first surgery).

The Bulls declined to apply for a disabled player exemption this season to replace Ball, presumably due to the aforementioned cheapness/laziness (it would have allowed them to sign a replacement player for up to half of Ball’s contract during the season). Will they do so next year, or will they demur, hoping that he returns by the end of 2022-23, and then when he doesn’t, say that they need another year (so 2024-25) to “evaluate what they have,” even though DeMar DeRozan’s contract expires in the summer of 2024? What do you think?

But I digress. I guess in the meantime, Chicago is going to continue to play basketball games as it piddles its way through a lost season.

The next such game is tonight, against a better Timberwolves team also missing a talented former lottery pick, ex-All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns. KAT, playing out of position at power forward alongside Rudy Gobert, has been on the shelf since November with a calf strain but could return “in a few weeks.” Of course, the season ends in a few weeks, so I’m calling Minnesota’s bluff on that one.

The Timberwolves have actually been playing worse than the middling Bulls of late, having gone 4-6 across their last ten contests to Chicago’s 5-5. The Bulls’ 18-16 home record trumps the Wolves’ 15-18 road record. Chicago actually looked like a modern offense on Wednesday, taking 42 treys in that Sacramento loss. Given all this, can the Bulls string together four straight competent quarters of basketball for once and actually hold onto a late-game lead against Anthony Edwards and co.?

I highly doubt it, but let’s find out.

Injury Report:

Beyond the three (so far) Bulls out with surgically reconstructed knees, Alex Caruso remains questionable due to an illness.

Gobert, fellow big Naz Reid, and reserve guard Austin Rivers are all questionable. Shooting guard Jaylen Nowell and KAT are out.

Game Time: 7 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago