Mike Dunleavy is back! Mike Dunleavy is back! Mike Dunleavy is back! (The Bulls lost), but praise be, Mike Dunleavy is back! There are a lot of story lines here in a game that would otherwise be relatively uninteresting: Jimmy Butler‘s MRI came back negative (more praise be); Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg‘s homecoming to Minnesota after spending seven years with the Timberwolves as both a player and a coach; injuries decimating both teams – Butler, Noah, Mirotic for the Bulls and Garnett, Martin, Pekovic for the Wolves; the first season sweep of the Bulls by the TWolves since ’08-’09; and of course: The Return of Mike Dunl3avy. Before I get into the excitement that is #TheReturn, let me break down some BULLets:
- The Bulls are 2-4 on an easy road trip where they have been outscored in nearly every second half so far – tonight was no different. The Bulls carried a lead into halftime, and were up five points with under 2:30 to play, when the Wolves went on a 12-0 run to finish the game. The Wolves only shot a paltry 8.3% (1/12) from behind the arc compared to the Bulls 40% (8/20), but out rebounded the Bulls 45 to 31, which made the difference. The Bulls’ inability to close out teams in the second halves of games and late in the 4th quarter has been a recurring theme, and has sadly crept its way into the norm: a loss in Utah after leading by three with 18 seconds left after the clutch Rose three, the loss of the 16-point fourth quarter lead in Denver, and several losses to abysmal teams: Charlotte (2x), Timberwolves (2x), Phoenix, and Brooklyn. I find myself, instead of being angered by these losses, in an apathetic acceptance:
How much Jimmy will be missed
- Despite a double digit lead in the third, the Wolves found their way back in the game in the fourth, as most teams do. As the game got tighter, the Bulls were without a go-to scorer and ball-stopper on the defensive side. Andrew Wiggins took control against the smaller E’Twaun Moore and Derrick Rose on consecutive plays – exchanges that would not have taken place would Butler have been on the floor. The Bulls reverted to isolation play or one-pass-and-shoot opportunities. Against a team that was 15-36 and hadn’t won two games in a row since December, there’s really no excuse for not stepping on their throats. Jimmy’s absence leaves a gaping hole in this team, despite what looks like a talented roster on paper.
- Derrick Rose had another solid performance, following up his 30-8-9 game in Denver with his first double-double of the season in Minnesota with 18 points and 10 assists. He was only 6/20 on the game, but was attacking and got to the line seven times. He booked eight or more assists in three consecutive games for the first time since April 2012.
- E’Twaun Moore stepped into the starting role in lieu of Butler and had himself a nice game: 17 points and seven assists on 7/13 shooting.
- Pau Gasol wrapped up the injured left hand and toughed it out, keeping the Bulls energized with 25 points and eight boards, and appearing to be the only one with fire in the huddles down the stretch.
The R3turn of Mike Dunl3avy
- It’s been too long. With Mike Dunleavy’s return to the floor, playing his first game all season due to a recovery from back surgery, we got a glimpse of what we can expect as his minutes expand (only 14 tonight, easing him back in):
- Back-cuts and slashing. Mike’s veteran play shouldn’t be overlooked or understated. His off-the-ball movement is second to none on this Bulls team, and has a savvy presence that will greatly benefit these Bulls down the stretch. It should be noted that on his first back-cut of the season, Mike Dunleavy managed to dunk the ball before Derrick Rose.
- Three point prowess. He followed up his slam with a three ball in transition. His presence bring one more guy the defense will have to pay attention to on the perimeter, and since Mike doesn’t make a habit of standing around like some of the other guys, his movement will bring an effective new texture to the offense.
- Minnesota big men Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui Dieng combined for a dominant 50 points and 30 rebounds to contribute to that gapingly large 45-31 rebounding margin. Wiggins took control down the stretch, and the rest was history.
- Coming up: The Bulls head to Charlotte as the road trip continues.