Final: GameDay LIVE Blog - Bulls 102, Wolves 87
Final: That's the ballgame, folks. The Wolves put in a good effort considering the injury and back-to-back game circumstances, but in the end the Bulls' postseason push and their fresh legs on three day's rest prevailed in a 102-87 win at Target Center. Minnesota falls to 39-39 on the season. Love led the team with 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Rubio had 15 points and six boards and Turaif had 11 points off the bench. Augustin had 21 for the Bulls, while Hinrich had 16, Dunleavy had 15, Butler had 14 Gibson had 13 and Noah had 15/13/10. The Wolves' next game is Friday at home against the Rockets. CHI 102, MIN 87
Q4 5:18: The Bulls are pulling away here with half a quarter to play. Noah just got his fourth triple-double of the season with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. He is now tied with Indiana's Lance Stephenson for the most triple-doubles in the NBA this season. Meanwhile, the Wolves trail by 13 and have one last chance at a rally here. Just a tough second half shooting for Minnesota. They haven't been able to get much going. Minnesota is 11-of-34 this half, while the Bulls are 18-of-33. CHI 92, MIN 79
End Q3: Nice response by the Wolves cutting this thing to 72-70 before the Bulls finished off the quarter with three more points to take a five-point lead. Rubio has 15 and Love has 14. For the Bulls, Joakim Noah is doing Joakim Noah things. He's got 11 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists and is on triple-double watch. CHI 75, MIN 70
Q3 2:53: The Bulls just just put together one of their runs we just talked about, and their 11-2 run puts them up 70-62 (a Bulls 3-pointer was reviewed and ruled a 2) with 2:53 left in the quarter. This is a pivotal three minutes here. If the Wolves can't bring this closer, they're going to have a hard time mounting a fourth-quarter comeback against this stingy defense. CHI 70, MIN 62
Q3 5:49: Chicago opened up the third on a 6-0 run and extended it to 9-2 before Gorgui Dieng scores and hit an and-1 to stop the Bulls' momentum. We've got a back-and-forth game going on here, folks, and if the Wolves can sustain their energy despite injuries and playing in the tail-end of a back-to-back against a hungry, playoff-bound team, they've got a good shot. But they can't give up any major runs tonight. The Wolves need to either keep ahead or within a possession or two in order to have a chance in this fourth quarter. You can't rely on a big comeback when your legs are on a tail-end of a back-to-back like this. MIN 60, CHI 59
Halftime: Minnesota shot 52.6 percent in the first half and takes a 53-48 lead into the break. Ricky Rubio is being incredibly aggressive and active, and he leads the way with 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting and 4-of-4 from the line. He also has four assists. Love has 12 points and six boards, while Turiaf has seven points off the bench and DC has six. The Wolves' bench is 7-of-9 from the field. D.J. Augustin has 14 points off the bench for Chicago, while Kirk Hinrich has seven. Their two point guards are shooting 9-of-14 and have 21 of the Bulls' 48 points. MIN 53, CHI 48
Q2 4:44: Great sequence by Ronny Turiaf over the last few possessions. He started out with some nice rim protection with a block and another nice contest on Taj Gibson, then a couple possessions later he took an Alexey Shved feed and slammed home an aggressive dunk. Ronny's got four points on 2-of-2 shooting. In fact, the Wolves' bench is currently 6-of-8 from the field. Nice production for the reserves tonight. The Wolves used an 8-0 run to take a nine-point lead. MIN 41, CHI 32
Q2 8:53: Othyus Jeffers is out on the court for the Wolves. He played 1:34 at the end of the Wolves/Spurs game last night, but these are his first meaningful regular season minutes with Minnesota. He's got his first points with the Wolves. He also has two rebounds. MIN 33, CHI 32
End Q1: Corey Brewer is living up to that intangible reputation Tom Thibodeau talked about earlier in pregame. Brewer put together a nice couple minutes that included a trip to the line, a steal as the Bulls tried to bring the ball up court and ensuing double-clutch layup. He's got five points on 2-of-3 shooting. Rubio is also still very active. He did one of those #TrickyRicky baseline drives and reverse layups that he's been showing the last few games. Very fun to watch. Also getting the pick-and-pop game going with Gorgui and DC. CHI 26, MIN 25
Q1 2:23: A couple observations: Ricky is being incredibly aggressive. He's just 2-of-7 from the field, but he's penetrating and making things happen. His latest drive didn't fall but resulted in a Gorgui Dieng putback. He alos attempted a late-shot clock 3 that didn't fall, but Robbie Hummel came out of nowhere to throw down a put-back dunk. That was observation No. 2, and it was awfully impressive. Observation No. 3 is K-Love's right elbow is not feeling well and he did come out of the game during this timeout, but it did not affect his latest shot. He drained a 3 from the wing that put the Wolves up two. MIN 18, CHI 16
Q1 5:47: One of the best plays from the first six minutes started when Gorgui Dieng came out of nowhere to swat a Bulls shot on the defensive end, which turned into a quick transition game up court and ended up featuring a kick-out 3-pointer by Ricky Rubio on the wing. That put the Wolves up 7-6 at about the 7:30 mark. Rubio's got five of the Wolves nine points tonight, and Love and Brewer have the other four. Mike Dunleavy has five for the Bulls. Lots of Chicago fans in the house tonight; their cheers are audible every time the Bulls do something positive. Neither team shooting well (Wolves 27.3 percent, Bulls 36.4 percent), but the pace has been enjoyable so far. CHI 10, MIN 9
Bulls: PG-Kirk Hinrich, SG-Jimmy Butler, SF-Mike Dunleavy, PF-Carlos Boozer, C-Joakim Noah
Wolves: PG-Ricky Rubio, SG-Corey Brewer, SF-Robbie Hummel, PF-Kevin Love, C-Gorgui Dieng
PREGAME 6:15 PM: Minnesota will be further short-handed tonight. They will still be without Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic, Chase Budinger and Shabazz Muhammad as they were last night, but they will also be without J.J. Barea (back spasms/neck). That means Minnesota will go with Alexey Shved as their backup point guard behind Ricky Rubio, and Robbie Hummel will be starting at the 2-guard spot as he did last night.
It's suddenly a very short-handed lineup, but not one that has folded. In fact, last night might have been one of the most all-around complete games they've played all season against an incredibly talented and veteran Spurs squad.
"They're playing great basketball. You can't go into Miami and win and then turn around and beat San Antonio like that without playing great," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "And they've had some guys really step up and play well for them. They've been hit with some injuries, but whenever that happens, it's an opportunity for guys to step in. Gorgui Dieng has stepped in and played very well. Love has been terrific. You know, I saw his interview after the game and he said he didn't play well. I'm watching and I'm saying you beat San Antonio by 20 points, you had 19 [points], 12 [rebounds] and 4 [assists]. That looks pretty good to me. But I think that's what makes him special, and you could see the growth in their team."
Chicago, of course, is a completely different animal. They've gone through changes all season of lofty proportions, including the season-ending injury of Derrick Rose and the trade of All-Star Luol Deng, and they just keep on trucking along. Tonight is a big opportunity for them to try and inch closer to getting the third seed in the East.
Adelman said the Wolves need to be conscious of that, because there is a lot at stake and they're a very defensive-minded, gritty team.
"They've been off for three days, and they're right in the middle of trying to win a seeding battle," Adelman said. "They play hard anyway, so it's just one more reason to play hard. And so we've got to be ready to play. We can't, this game and then the one against Houston coming in here on Friday, they're tough games. But we responded well last night, and hopefully we'll respond tonight."
In order to do it, they'll need to handle a guy like center Joakim Noah, who is really an intangible presence on the Bulls' team. Not only do the stats back up how much he impacts the game (12.5 points per game, 11.1 rebounds per game, 5.2 assists per game), but the fire he showcases each night really wills this team forward. He does something for this une that really rallies them, and with the changes they've had in the starting lineup this year, Chicago really needs it.
As a side note, Thibodeau actually commented Corey Brewer has an intangible impact on the Wolves in a similar way. He said Brewer reminds him of Noah, who won back-to-back NCAA titles at Florida together, in that way. "They just have a lot of intangibles to their game that just make the team function well. [Brewer] does that," Thibodeau said.
One last pregame note from Thibodeau, when asked if he could imagine winning 1,000 games like Adelman has in his career: "Geesh, I'm just worried about the next one. It's amazing to me when you look at guys like that."
PREGAME 1:30 PM: Welcome to Target Center, where the Timberwolves will take on the Chicago Bulls tonight at Target Center. This should be an exciting matchup, especially with the Wolves coming off a 110-91 victory over the Spurs last night. That game was incredibly exciting to watch for Wolves fans, as Minnesota led by more than 20 for most of the second half and took down the top seed in the Western Conference just days after taking down the top seed in the East, Miami, over the weekend. A cool stat from that particular win over the Spurs is this: San Antonio is 168-58 over the past three regular seasons, but they are just 5-5 against Minnesota. The Wolves have played the defending Western Conference champions very well.
It won't get easier tonight, though. Chicago has won five straight and eight of their past 10. They last played on Saturday, so they've had a significant amount of time to rest, and they were here in the Twin Cities last night resting as the Wolves took on the Spurs. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was actually here inside Target Center watching the game. Minnesota has not performed great on the tail-end of back-to-backs this year, so this will be a challenge.
Still, the Wolves are playing arguably their best stretch of basketball in 2013-14 right now. They took down Memphis, Miami and San Antonio in three of their last four games, despite battling injuries, and they're getting Chicago's full attention.
"They've had a hell of a week," Thibodeau said. "You wini at Miami, and you beat San Antonio, you're playing well. They can score the ball...you know, they have quality depth, they play at a great pace...Love can really spread you out with his skill set. Dieng has played incredibly well, their bench has played well. So you've got to be ready."
This is a very meaningful game for the Bulls, as the team is currently tied with the Raptors for the third spot in the East. Toronto has the tie-breaker at the moment, but the Bulls have a week to play leap frog. That means every game counts, and taking care of the Wolves tonight would go a long way.
The Bulls are certainly getting themselves prepared for the playoff push, and getting that third seed would be a big deal. It would likely mean they'd get Indiana in the second round and not Miami, and with the Pacers struggling heading into the playoffs this no longer looks like a two-horse Eastern Conference race.
Chicago has quietly--or not so quietly, if you're an opposing team--crashed the party and become one of the hottest teams in the league over the past month.
"We're really focued," D.J. Augustin said. "We've been taking every game the rest of the season very seriously. Even though, you know, we might have like five games left, we're taking every game serious. We want to win every one left and just keep getting ready and sharpening our skills."
That especially includes tonight.
"We're playing in their home, you know. Can't take them lightly," Augustin said. "They're a good team with great players...Just have to approach it like any other game."
Here are a few game notes as we get set for tipoff:
· The Wolves trail in the series 18-28, and are 10-13 at home. The Wolves snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Bulls with a 95-86 win at Chicago on Jan. 27, 2014. Kevin Love scored 31 points in the game and Ronny Turiaf added 14 points, seven rebounds and three blocks.
· With a 39-38 record, the Wolves have a chance to finish at .500 or above for the first time since the 2004-05 season (44-38).
· Kevin Love (1,891 points) passed Kevin Garnett (1,883. 2002-03) for the 3rd-most points by a Wolves player in a season. He needs 12 points to tie Tony Campbell for 2nd place (1,903, 1989-90) and 96 points to tie Kevin Garnett (1,987, 2013-14) for the most points by a Wolves player in a single season.
· Gorgui Dieng has started 10 of the last 13 games, averaging 12.0 points, on 55.1% (59-for-107) shooting, and 11.1 rebounds. He has six double-doubles in this span, the most of any rookie since the All-Star break.
· Love leads the NBA in double-doubles (61), 20/10 games (48), 30/10 games (19) and 20/10/5 games (24). He ranks 4th in scoring (25.9 ppg), 3rd in rebounding (12.6 rpg) and 3rd in free throws made (481). Love is also averaging a career-high 4.4 assists -- the last players to average 26+ points, 12+ rebounds and 4+ assists over a full season were Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bob McAdoo in 1975-76.
· Ricky Rubio ranks 2nd in the NBA in steals (2.43 spg) and 4th in assists (8.6 apg). With seven assists Tuesday vs. San Antonio, Rubio (662) passed Micheal Williams (661, 1992-93) for 4th place on the Wolves' all-time single-season assists list. He needs 23 more assists to tie Pooh Richardson (685, 1991-92) for 3rd place.
· Rubio is averaging 17.0 points, on 49.1% (27-for-55) shooting, and 9.5 assists over his last four games, including recording two double-doubles.
· With four steals Tuesday vs. San Antonio, Corey Brewer (429) passed Doug West (428) for 3rd place on the Wolves' all-time steals list. He needs 20 more steals to tie Sam Mitchell (449) for 2nd place. He ranks 9th in the NBA with 1.71 steals per game and has a total of 9 steals in the last two games.
· Brewer is averaging 13.5 points on 53.5% shooting over the last 10 games, after averaging 7.4 ppg and 36.6% shooting in the previous five games.
· At 45-32, Chicago is in 4th place in the Eastern Conference, behind 3rd-place Toronto (45-32) on a tie-breaker and 2.0 games ahead of Brooklyn. The Bulls have won their last five games.
· Scoring is at a premium in Bulls' games as they allow the fewest points per game (91.6) and rank last in scoring (93.4). The Bulls rank 30th in the NBA in field-goal percentage at 43.1%, but are 2nd in field goal defense with opponents shooting just 42.9%.
· Joakim Noah is the only player this season to be averaging 10+ points, 10+ rebounds and 5+ assists. The last player to accomplish this was Kevin Garnett in 2004-05. Noah leads the Bulls in assists this season, including averaging 6.7 per game since the All-Star break. The last center to lead his team in assists was David Robinson (4.8) in 1993-94.