Keys to the Game: Bulls vs. Timberwolves (12.26.18)
CHICAGO -- The road hasn't been overly kind to the Minnesota Timberwolves this season.
The Timberwolves have lost 13 of their 16 games away from home heading into Wednesday's game against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center. Minnesota finds itself in a stretch of games on which the Timberwolves will play four of their next five games on the road.
But if the Timberwolves were looking for a confidence booster for the upcoming slate of games, finding a way to pull out a 114-112 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday, which snapped a 12-game road losing streak against Western Conference opponents.
Andrew Wiggins was a major reason why Minnesota was finally able to snap the losing skid as he scored 30 points and hit the game-winner with 14.3 seconds remaining.
Now as the Timberwolves prepare to face the Bulls on Wednesday, Wiggins will attempt to keep Minnesota moving in the right direction. His performance against the Thunder provided evidence to Wiggins' teammates that when Wiggins plays well, good things happen.
"We can be beyond great," forward Robert Covington said after Sunday's victory, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
After the 12 straight Western Conference road losses, the victory on Sunday lifted the spirits of a team that hasn't seen things come easy all year. And as much as finding a way to win away from home meant, finding a way to win period may have provided an emotional lift.
"We're just tired of losing," said forward Taj Gibson, who will face his former team on Wednesday in Chicago. "We felt (Sunday) that we were a better team than what we showed. Guys were real resilient."
Now, the Timberwolves (15-18) will face a Chicago team that, like Minnesota, has experienced its fair share of difficulty this season. Chicago (9-25) will carry a two-game winning streak into Wednesday's game.
Despite losing six of its last 10 games, Chicago has managed to string together consecutive double-digit victories over the Orlando Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers together. Like the Timberwolves, confidence could bode well for a team that has struggled all season with injuries and that will continue to play without starting forward Bobby Portis.
But after putting together its first two-game winning streak of the season, Chicago will look to continue to play the brand of basketball that has brought some enjoyment back to the Bulls.
Chicago's latest victory came in a 112-92 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday in which Lauri Markkanen scored 31 points and has now scored 30 points in back-to-back games for the first time in his career.
"We're having fun playing basketball," Markkanen said after the victory on Sunday, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The Bulls are now 4-6 under Jim Boylen, who took over the team after Fred Hoiberg was fired following a disappointing start to the season. The Bulls have managed to come together after a closed-door meeting with players and coaches that Markkanen said improved the chemistry of the team.
Boylen has taken a direct approach to his team and said that's the only way the Bulls will continue to improve.
"We're direct and honest every day," Boylen said, according to the Tribune. "We've kept our message consistent of what we believe in and what I hope we can become. You have to give the guys credit."
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