Bulls fall to Timberwolves, 122-104

Bulls fall to 20-39 in the regular season

Zach LaVine had an impressive return to Minnesota with 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds. But the Bulls were unable to go forth, especially in a poor fourth quarter that enabled the Timberwolves to pull away to a 122-104 victory.

The Bulls are 20-39. Minnesota is 37-26.

The Bulls came back from an early deficit to lead at halftime and trail by just four points going into the fourth quarter. But with one of seven Bulls shooting and a pair of turnovers to open the fourth quarter, Minnesota started with a 13-1 run and dominated the rest of the game.

Bobby Portis added 15 points. David Nwaba had 14 points and nine rebounds. Denzel Valentine, Cameron Payne and Cristiano Felicio had 11 points each and Kris Dunn 10. Lauri Markkanen continued to stumble after All-Star weekend with three points on one of eight shooting. He is two of 16 since and zero for seven on threes.

The Bulls play Monday in Brooklyn and Tuesday in Charlotte. The return to the United Center Friday against Dallas.

Jimmy Butler missed the game after sustaining a meniscus injury Friday against Houston. Paul Zipser was out for the Bulls with a sore knee. It was LaVine’s and Dunn’s first game back in Minnesota after the trade last June for Jimmy Butler. The Bulls were able to draft Markkanen with the selection acquired from Minnesota in the trade. The Bulls defeated Minnesota 114-113 in Chicago earlier this month in the return of Butler and Taj Gibson. The Timberwolves  jumped out ahead in the sentimental return of former Timberwolves player Fred Hoiberg. LaVine, also. It was 17-6 Minnesota as the Bulls were quick to shoot with perhaps one pass per possession, again resulting in only tough shots for  Markkanen and a scoreless first half. Markkanen did defend well against Karl-Anthony Towns, but the Bulls trailed 31-24 after one. Noah Vonleh did give the team a boost with a pair of threes and good defensive rebounding. The Timberwolves remained in control, taking a 42-33 lead four minutes into the second quarter before a switch to make LaVine also a facilitator turned the game around for the Bulls. LaVine drawing the defense had four assists in five possessions with three Nwaba scores on dunks and layups that gave the Bulls a 48-47 lead with 4:58 left in the half. Again, Minnesota’s defense was unable to show any resistance as LaVine drove for a three-point play and passing to Portis on the fast break for a lob dunk as the Bulls led 62-60 at halftime. LaVine had 15 points in the half and Portis 11. Andrew Wiggins had 17 for Minnesota as both teams shot 51 percent. Nwaba had 10 points and seven rebounds. Again, the Bulls bench was pivotal with a 24-7 halftime lead.

Markkanen, seeming tired since his All-Star weekend, finally scored with a slam dunk on a three-on-one fast break for a 66-61 Bulls lead to begin the third. Jeff Teague continued to torment the Bulls in pick and roll and jumpers as the Bulls went under screens. Minnesota went ahead 74-71 with Towns finally getting going. But Portis powered inside for a score and 76-76 tie with 3:50 left in the third quarter. Back to back Bulls turnovers then enabled Minnesota to score five straight points and go into the fourth quarter leading 86-82. It was a poor start to the fourth quarter for the Bulls with the Bulls failing to get two loose balls on the defensive boards. Both led to Jamal Crawford threes and a 96-84 Minnesota lead with 9:24 left in the game. An 18-3 Minnesota start to the fourth quarter with three Crawford threes ended the Bulls hopes for a season sweep of the Timberwolves.

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