GameDay Blog: Wolves vs. Bulls - March 24, 2013

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Final: That's the ballgame. The Wolves fall to the Bulls 104-97 tonight here at Target Center. D-Will leads the way with 28 points, while Pek and Ricky each had 15 and Cunningham had 10. For the Bulls, Nate Robinson led the way with 22 points, while Butler had 20, Bozzer had 19, Deng had 17 and Gibson had 12. Check back for updates and postgame interviews at throughout the night. Final: CHI 104, MIN 97

Q4 3:47: The Wolves cut the Bulls' lead all the way down to 5, but since then Chicago has gone on a 9-3 run and it's back up to 11 with 3:47 to play. Taj Gibson just emphasized that with a basket and 1 to grab a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds and extend the lead back to double digits. Gibson and Nate Robinson have combined for 31 points on 13-of-22 shooting off the bench. CHI 99, MIN 88

Q4 8:15: Ask and you shall receive. Budinger and Shved just hit back-to-back 3-pointers and have trimmed the Bulls' lead to 85-78 with 8:15 to play. The crowd is coming alive and there is a little extra energy in the arena. Much-needed boost. It's the closest the Wolves have been since the second quarter. CHI 85, MIN 78

Q4 9:03: All of a sudden it's a 13-point advantage for the Bulls, and Minnesota is going to need a run here to keep in the game with 9:03 to play. Ball control is key. D-Will just forced another turnover but gave the ball right back as Butler went in for the fastbreak slam. CHI 85, MIN 72

End Q3: The Wolves head into the fourth down 10 after a pretty neutral third that didn't allow Minnesota to gain much ground. Williams had a nice quarter, while Rubio continues to lead the team with 15 points to go along with four assists. Barea just hit a nice driving layup in traffic that brought the Wolves' deficit down to 10. Pek and D-Will have 13 on a combined 11-for-19 shooting. Overall Minnesota being outshot by 14 and out-rebounded 41-26. CHI 78, MIN 68

Q3 5:18: Derrick Williams is coming alive here in the third. He started out this nice stretch of basketball with a steal at mid-court and an open court two-handed slam, and he currently has six points in the quarter. He's 5-of-8 from the field and has a 3-pointer tonight. Minnesota has trailed by as many as 16 but they have cut the lead to eight here midway through the third. CHI 66, MIN 58

Halftime: Not a lot to cheer for if you're a Wolves fan in the final minutes of the first half as the Bulls built a sizeable 16-point advantage with eight seconds left thanks to a big alley-oop from Taj Gibson. But on the ensuing Wolves possession, Derrick Williams banked in a 3 from the wing to make it a 56-43 Bulls lead at the half. Cunningham has eight off the bench, while Pek and Barea have seven and Rubio has six. For the Bulls, Deng has 14 and Robinson has 11 off the bench. CHI 56, MIN 43

Q2 4:51: Dante Cunningham has provided a nice spark off the bench and is giving Minnesota efficient minutes so far. He's got eight points on 4-of-6 shooting in eight minutes and has gotten it done at the rim and with his patented jumpers inside the arc. He's getting some good looks and has been effective, but the Wolves need more offense across the board as they're down by 13. CHI 46, MIN 33

Q2 8:51: A couple of important updates here. The Bulls opened up the quarter outscoring Minnesota 12-6 and have a 35-22 lead. But more importantly, B-Wright is now in a Ghostbusters costume, equipped with the proton pack and all, and we have a Klondike challenger taking on a Rubik's Cube. CHI 35, MIN 22

End Q1: The Bulls have attempted 31 shots already, including a possession just before the end of the quarter that must have included about 7 shots. That one ended with a Gibson putback jam. But the Wolves do just trail 23-16 despite being outshot 31-16. Minnesota is shooting 6-of-16 and is led by Rubio's 6 points--1-of-1 from the field and four free throws. Five others have scored two points. Deng has nine and Hinrich has eight, and Chicago is on an 18-4 run starting the second half. CHI 23, MIN 16

Q1 5:08: It is, in fact, 80s Night here at Target Center, and I certainly just heard the phrases "dudes and dudettes" used here over the loudspeaker. We also have old footage from crowds of the past, which includes a lot of big hear and mullets. Meanwhile, on the court we've noticed the Bulls bring an awful lot of college tradition in their starting lineup. Between the five, they've got Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and Marquette covered. The Wolves, on the other hand, are Pac-12 oriented with D-Will from Arizona and Luke from Oregon, with three players coming over internationally. On the scoreboard, Minnesota jumped out to a 12-5 lead thanks to 2-of-12 shooting by Chicago, but the Bulls have since gone on a 9-0 run to take a 14-12 lead. They've hit 4 of their last 7 shots. CHI 14, MIN 12

Starters: Bulls: PG-Kirk Hinrich, SG-Jimmy Butler, SF-Luol Deng, PF-Carlos Boozer, C-Nazr Mohammed

Wolves: PG-Ricky Rubio, SG-Luke Ridnour, SF-Andrei Kirilenko, PF-Derrick Williams, C-Nikola Pekovic

Pregame 5:50 PM: Kevin Love spoke with the media during pregame and said that he expects to be re-evaluated at the end of the week either and will have a CT scan that will be the next step in figuring out when he'll be cleared for full contact practice. Thursday will mark 12 weeks since he broke his hand in Denver for the second time this season and had to undergo surgery that included placing a pin in this right hand.

But while he felt discomfort when he returned last time, after he broke his hand in the preseason. This time around he's feeling much more comfortable.

"I was a little nervous that first time around," Love said. "Because I kept waiting. Some days would be better than others. But now it's far more consistent. It feels great shooting the ball."

Love has been taking part in 3-point shooting drills with his teammates at recent practices and has visibly looked comfortable and confident in his shot. He said as much tonight: "I'm shooting the hell out of it...I'm shooting a lot better. It's back to how it used to feel."

Now, the question is when will he return?

He said it will be up to the coaches to talk about when the best time might be. He doesn't want to rush coming back in hopes of not prematurely returning and hurting the hand again, and it has crossed his mind not playing for the rest of the season. That part of the equation will be a conversation he'll have with the coaching staff as well as owner Glen Taylor and President of Basketball Operations David Kahn. If the doctors say it will be another 10 days before he can have contact, that could factor in adversely to his return. But he said he'd like to come back and be on the court.

"I think it was a combination of a lot of things—not knowing where my hand was going to be, and having to lead the team right when I got back, stay in shape," Love said. "Just so many things added on to that. Plus not having a full training camp with the new guys. I think that was definitely tough. But, right now, I’m just looking forward to coming back and easing my way into playing. Playing hard, playing aggressive and just being myself."

Still, with Love feeling comfortable with his shot again, that's a good sign for both himself and for the Wolves.

"I know that I’m really fortunate that it’s back to where it was," Love said. "Still getting a little bit of strength back, getting some tightness out of my hand . But When that scar tissue goes away, it will be 100 percent. But my hand at 80 or 90 percent really feels good."

Pregame 5:35 PM: Lots of questions so far tonight about Ricky's recovery and progress in relation to how Derrick Rose is treating his recovery and where he's at in the process. The one thing that both Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and Wolves coach Rick Adelman both addressed is that every individual's situation varies from someone else's. It's a process that can be unique to the individual because of all the physical and mental factors involved.

Adelman was asked what he thought of Rose not playing yet.

"I'm not surprised—every individual is different," he said. "I think the player of his caliber, they've got to be cautious. He has to be."

Thibodeau said Rubio's play lately has been great, particularly his court vision and his ability to make others on the court better. He's looking comfortable and is playing at a high level, Thibodeau said.

"I enjoy watching him play," Thibodeau said. "He's got a great spirit about him. You don't like to see anyone get hurt, and he's bounced back. It's good for their team."

Meanwhile, Adelman talked about Budinger's play in his first two games back and how he's looked. He said he's the same old Chase he remembers from his days coaching him in Houston. He's moving without the ball and hitting those spot-up jumpers, two things the team hoped he would bring this year before his injury. Adelman said Budinger knows how to play the game on the offensive end, and the next step in his recovery is being able to get through any soreness. The Wolves will be limiting his minutes until he gets through that soreness period.

Pregame 5:15 PM: A quick update on the Bulls' injury situation. Joakim Noah and Rip Hamilton are both not with the team tonight, so Chicago will be playing without two key players tonight to go along with Derrick Rose. Rose is here and was out on the court working on coming off screens, putting up some 3-pointers and also doing some work at the free-throw line. He is not playing tonight, but considering the road he's had to take with his recovery and this being the lone time the Bulls are coming through town this year it's good to see Rose getting a little workout in here at Target Center. Others of note that coach Tom Thibodeau mentioned are Kirk Hinrich, Taj Gibson and Deaquan Cook are all available tonight. More to come in the pregame blog including some thoughts on Rose's comeback in relation to the path Rubio took.

Pregame 3:50 PM: Welcome to Target Center for the Wolves’ final Sunday game of the 2012-13 season. We’ve got the Bulls tonight, a team that has sunk into sixth in the Eastern Conference and are battling their own injury woes as we head into the final 3 ½ weeks before the postseason.

The big question mark all Chicago fans are wondering is whether or not Derrick Rose will return this season, but right now that’s not their only concern. The Bulls were without center Joakim Noah last night in an 87-84 win over the Pacers because of a plantar fasciitis, and Richard Hamilton has been sidelined with a back injury. It’s possible neither will play tonight, but we’ll get word on that when we get a little closer to game time.

Meanwhile, this is kind of a full-circle week for Wolves forward Chase Budinger. Not only did he return to the court on Thursday against Sacramento and also play on Friday against the Suns, but tonight he will have a chance to play against the Bulls for the first time since tearing his meniscus in November at United Center. It’s been a nice return for Budinger, too. In his first two games, he’s averaging 10.0 points and 3.0 rebounds while shooting about 43 percent from the field (7-of-16). He’s 2-of-6 from 3-point range and has picked up a couple steals. Right now he’s played 18 and 16 minutes, respectively, and I’d imagine his playing time will be similar again tonight.

Other notes for this evening: Kevin Love will receive a commemorative ring during the second quarter to signify his role on the U.S. men’s basketball team’s Gold Medal winning squad this summer. It will be a nice moment for Love to get recognition for playing an important role on that club both on and off the court, according to fellow high-profile Olympic teammates, and it will also be nice to see considering Love has been sidelined so long this year with his hand injuries. We’ll have more coverage of that tonight, too.

This is the start of a stretch during which Minnesota will play six games in nine days, including a brutal home stretch between now and April 1: The Bulls, Lakers, Thunder, Grizzlies and Celtics will all be here in the next nine days. The Wolves will also travel to Detroit during that stretch. Talk about April Fools. But with Minnesota coming off a 117-86 win over the Suns, this is an opportunity to build a little momentum to kick off this tough string of games begins.

That’s it for now. Check in for more pregame updates after the coaches’ availability. Here are some more notes to prep for the 6 p.m. tipoff:

  • The Wolves trail in the all-time series 17-27, and are 10-12 at home. The Bulls have won the last six meetings, including an 87-80 win at United Center on Nov. 10.

  • The Wolves' win at Phoenix snapped a nine-game road losing streak dating to their win at Cleveland on Feb. 11. The Wolves' 31-point margin of victory at Phoenix was the team's second-largest road win in franchise history: 35 (119-84) at Philadelphia on Dec. 8, 2004.

  • Minnesota has won three of its last four games at Target Center.

  • Rick Adelman is five wins shy of reaching 1,000 NBA coaching wins -- a plateau previously reached by only seven coaches.

  • Ricky Rubio is averaging 14.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 2.29 steals over the last seven games. He has recorded a triple-double and a double-double over this stretch.

  • Derrick Williams is averaging 16.1 points and 7.6 rebounds over the last 22 games. He has been the Wolves' leading scorer in eight of the last 15 games.

  • Greg Stiemsma is averaging 8.9 points, on 54.7% shooting, 6.0 rebounds and 1.56 blocks over the last nine games.

  • The Wolves have recorded fewer turnovers than their opponent in 14 of the last 16 games, averaging 13.6 turnovers per game compared to 17.0 for their opponents.

  • Chicago is in 6th place in the Eastern Conference, 0.5 games behind Atlanta and 1.5 games ahead of Boston. The Bulls are 18-15 on the road, 4-9 vs. the Western Conference, and have lost five of their last six away from home.

  • Chicago is holding its opponents to an average of 92.2 points per game, 3rd best in the NBA. The Bulls are 27-7 when holding opponents under 90 points, and tonight's opponent, Minnesota, is 1-16 when scoring less than 90 points.

  • Joakim Noah ranks 5th in the NBA in rebounding with 11.4 rpg. His 256 offensive boards are the 3rd-most in the league. Noah ranks 6th in blocked shots with 2.22 bpg. He is averaging 16.0 points, on 75.0% (21-for-28) shooting, and 10.3 rebounds over the last three games.

  • Carlos Boozer is averaging 18.0 points, on 53.4% (39 -for-73) shooting, 9.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists over the last five games.

  • Luol Deng has scored 20+ points in three of the last four games. He has scored 20+ points 19 times this season and the Bulls are 15-4 in those games.

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