I watched this game via NBA League Pass. 10 minutes prior to tipoff, I continuously watched tight shots of the Timberwolves DJ spin records. I love sports. The shorthanded Bulls squared off against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday with a depleted starting five. The game concluded a 6-game road trip, hoping for a 3-3 stretch. Jimmy Butler, Nikola Mirotic, Paul Zipser, and Dwyane Wade all sat out in Sunday’s tilt.
Robin Lopez and Gorgui Dieng squared off at center court, with Lopez winning the tip. Just like that, Bulls basketball was on the air. The Bulls sported their usual red road jerseys while the Wolves wore what usually is their blue road jersey. To not much surprise, the Bulls started out slow offensively. They started out 2/9 from the field, and trailed by nine with just under eight minutes to play with the score 14-5 in favor of Minnesota. The offense continued to look abysmal, as the Bulls registered two turnovers into two possessions which led to Minnesota extending their early lead to 14. Rajon Rondo checked in at around the 6:00 mark as Fred Hoiberg looked for spark offensively. Rondo was able to register one assist on a nice pass to Bobby Portis that was the first three of the game for the Bulls. However, the world would eventually find its course again, and the Bulls defense just looked pathetic. At the 2:40 mark, they trailed 31-12. Minnesota was shooting 72 percent from the floor, while the Bulls were just over 35 percent. If you thought there was any sign of momentum coming the Bulls way, you were wrong. Minnesota led 34-17 after the first quarter.
Things weren’t much better as the second quarter started up. The Wolves began the quarter on a 11-2 run which extended their lead to 26 points. Fred Hoiberg used a timeout with just under 9 minutes to go in the half, as Minnesota continued to enforce their will on the Bulls. Shots were not falling and the defense looked lazy. The only entertainment that was out there for Bulls fans was the voice of former Head Coach of the Bulls Tom Thibodeau screaming at his players despite having a 26-point lead. Both bench units were out on the floor around the halfway mark of the second quarter. This was the Bulls opportunity to get some kind of life, and they were able to drop the lead to 20 with just over six minutes to play in the first half. However, things just continued to look awful for the Bulls as the minutes shrunk in the second quarter. At the 3:00 minute mark, Minnesota had more points in the paint (30) than the Bulls did total (27). The Bulls finally looked like they were getting some offense together as the half came to an end. They hit five straight field goals to cut the Wolves’ lead to 17. Despite the lead still being rather large, the strong finish allowed the Bulls to grab some kind of momentum heading into the half.
Any sign of that momentum carrying over from halftime looked unlikely. Minnesota began the quarter on a 9-3 run. Stacey King put it well after Dieng threw down a wide-open dunk that it was time for players to sit on the bench. The Bulls seemed like they had no spark to them. Then, just a few minutes later, the cycle repeated itself. The Bulls got a couple stops on the defensive end and were able to turn those stops into points and cut the lead to 18 at the 7:00 mark. However, Minnesota didn’t come back with pushing their lead back to over 20. The Bulls used a common strategy when trailing by over 20, which is living by the three. This strategy doesn’t usually pan out well for the Bulls, as they rank No. 30 in the league (dead last) in 3-point field goal percentage. You could view today’s game as an outlier, as at the 2:30 mark in the third the Bulls were shooting 62.5 percent from distance. But of course, this comeback effort proved to be worthless. Minnesota climbed right back into the driver’s seat, extending their lead to 19. The Bulls had a 4 on 1 breakaway chance with Michael Carter-Williams carrying the basketball. For whatever reason, MCW decided to attack the rim and not make a pass until he was halfway in the air, and the Bulls turned it over. You just can’t make plays like that. It’s about as close to a free basket as one can have.
There wasn’t much that changed in the game at the start of the fourth quarter. The Bulls continue to shoot the three well, Tom Thibodeau continued to bark like a dog, and the Wolves led by around 20 points. The sloppy play dragged on, and the bus was starting to warm up. There was just nothing that would please you as a Bulls fan that happened today. Andrew Wiggins showed off his athleticism as he made Doug McDermott beg for mercy after throwing down this ferocious slam. Stacey put it well: “You might want to take away his right-hand Doug. He’s right handed.” The minutes got smaller, and the Wolves lead got larger. Minnesota picked up one of the easiest wins they’ll have all year, with the final score hitting 117-89.
It was more than likely that the Bulls were going to struggle offensively in this game without their two best players. However, this performance was just unacceptable. The Bulls have been terrible against bad teams all year, but getting blown out to team that has been poor like the Wolves must raise questions. Team chemistry seems to be at a low, and I don’t know what the Bulls can do to fix that. They’ve got two games this week before the All-Star break. If they’re able to pick up some steam heading into the break, that could carry over well. These two games are huge for the Bulls, and let’s hope they realize that.
Up Next: The Bulls play host to the Raptors on Valentine’s Day as they look to snap out of their most recent funk.