Bulls fall in Minnesota 112-105

The Bulls Saturday once again couldn’t hold a late lead and lost 112-105 to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Bulls appeared in good shape to take the closer in their back to back with a 105-100 lead with 2:55 left in the game. But the Bulls would go the last 3:17 without a field goal as the Timberwolves closed the game on a 12-0 run.

The Bulls fell to 27-23 and 2-4 on the road trip with one more game, in Charlotte Monday.

The Bulls were led by Pau Gasol with 25 points and eight rebounds. Derrick Rose had 18 points and 10 assists, E’Twaun Moore had 17 points and Bobby Portis closing the game with the regulars had 15 points.

The Bulls missed their last seven field goal attempts, three by Rose, three by Gasol and one by Moore. The Timberwolves had three players in double figures led by Karl-Anthony Towns with 26 points and 17 rebounds. Minnesota shot 51.7 percent. Minnesota had a 45-31 rebounding edge. Minnesota is 16-36 and swept the Bulls this season.

Jimmy Butler returned to Chicago Saturday after sustaining a knee strain in the first half of Friday’s loss in Denver. The Bulls said Butler return “timeline for his return to play will be determined by further evaluation in Chicago and his response to treatment.” But the Bulls got some good news Saturday with the return of Mike Dunleavy in his first game of the season after summer back surgery. Also, Gasol returned to the lineup after missing Friday’s game in Denver with a hand injury.

The Bulls spend much of the first quarter trying to keep up with Minnesota likely rookie of the year Towns, who had the Timberwolves’ first six points and 12 in the quarter for a 26-21 Minnesota lead. The Bulls stayed close with the shooting of Gasol, and Dunleavy made his season debut with a scoreless six first quarter minutes. But Minnesota closed the first quarter with a 10-2 run on 63 percent first quarter shooting.

Doug McDermott’s aggressive start to the second quarter enabled the Bulls to creep ahead 28-26. The Bulls then had an 8-0 Bulls run with Taj Gibson dunking twice as his man dropped off to double team Rose and Rose found Gibson. That gave the Bulls a 43-37 lead, but the Timberwolves realized the difficulty guarding Towns with the smaller Gibson and went back to him and Minnesota got back within 45-43 with just over two minutes left in the half. But Gasol took advantage of Towns not coming out to his shot and had 13 in the half as the Bulls led 55-49. Rose had 11 points and four assists. Towns had 16 and nine rebounds.

But like in Denver after getting a lead, the Bulls opened the quarter soft, this time the third. The Timberwolves made a line to the basket for a 14-5 start to the second half to take a 64-60 lead with eight minutes left in the third quarter. The Bulls responded first from Gasol on a nice roll from a Rose pass and then Dunleavy with his first score of the season, a running dunk on an E’Twaun Moore pass and then a three. Gorgui Dieng continued to surprise with his perimeter shooting with Gasol staying inside, scoring his 20th points as Minnesota led 80-79 late in the third quarter. The game rocked back and forth as Gasol came back with his second three pointer and the teams went into the fourth quarter tied at 84.

The Bulls again had trouble on the offensive boards when Gasol sat down, the Timberwolves doubling the Bulls total with about nine minutes left to take a 90-89 lead. With about seven minutes remaining and the Bulls holding a 94-92 lead, there already were 21 lead changes and 15 ties. Rose got his 10th assist and first double/double of the season on a sharp pass to Bobby Portis rolling to the basket for a 103-98 Bulls lead with about three and a half minutes left. But the Bulls went cold late again and the Timberwolves reassumed the lead at 106-105 with 1:24 remaining.