The Minnesota Timberwolves came in losers of four straight. They were tied for the worst record in the league, so of course they defeated the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night. Fred Hoiberg’s team continues to perform against the leagues best, and lose against the NBA’s worst.
In Tom Thibodeau’s much ballyhooed return to Chicago, the Bulls fell short in a way that’s almost as predictable as it is frustrating. Chicago raced out to a 16-point first quarter lead behind the physicality of Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson, who continued to establish their dominance in the paint in the first quarter.
Then along came a 22-5 run.
Young scorers Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins combined to shoot 55% from the field in the second quarter, putting serious pressure on the Bulls’ perimeter defense. In a game where both teams shot poorly, Thibodeau’s team was the one able to put together consistent stretches of play. Karl-Anthony Towns came alive in the third period, repeatedly getting blocks at one end after scoring at the other.
For Bulls fans it was a familiar feeling, seeing Thibs bark out calls from the sideline as his young and determined team completed the largest comeback in this current NBA season. The T-Wolves controlled the glass and held the Bulls to 26.7% shooting from the three-point line, and down the stretch the Bulls relied too heavily on the talents of Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler.
Butler shot a very uncommon 40.9% from the field, and the Bulls were beat at the free throw line as well. That’s why despite a 20-point advantage in points in the paint, the Bulls lost by 5.
The lasting memory of the game will be the final sequence. With 56 seconds left Wade shot a contested three that clanked off the rim, and headed towards Ricky Rubio who notched his 10th assist as he flipped a full-court pass to a streaking LaVine. On the play Butler was caught flat-footed at halfcourt, and Wade couldn’t get back in time either.
Live by the duo, die by the duo.
Tom Thibodeau got his team to show some growth by breaking a pattern, while Fred Hoiberg and his group may need to try something rotation-wise to open up the end of game offense. Chicago will look to get back on track tomorrow night on the road against the upstart Milwaukee Bucks.