The Bulls Tuesday suffered a discouraging 99-94 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves after holding a second quarter 21-point lead.
Minnesota pulled away down the stretch with Dwyane Wade ejected with 14.1 seconds left after reacting angrily to the lack of a foul call on a drive while trailing by four points. Minnesota closed the game on an 8-0 run after the game was tied at 91 on a Jimmy Butler jumper.
Butler led the Bulls with 27 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Robin Lopez had 14 points, Wade 12 points and eight assists and Taj Gibson 10 points. The Bulls shot 43.7 percent after 73 percent in the first quarter. Minnesota had a 49-42 rebounding edge with 15 offensive rebounds that proved crucial. Zach LaVine had 24 points and Andrew Wiggins 23.
It was the first return as opposing coach of former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. The Bulls were without starting point guard Rajon Rondo, who sustained a sprained ankle in practice Monday. Jerian Grant started for Rondo. Grant added an early three as the Bulls behind the inside scoring of Lopez loped out to a 15-6 lead after four minutes. The Bulls continued to pour it on with Grant adding another three, Butler stripping Gorgui Dieng at midcourt and Gibson finishing inside against Karl-Anthony Towns. The Bulls went ahead by 20 with 5:10 left in the first quarter. Lopez had 10 first quarter points and Butler five assists as the Bulls took a 38-22 lead after the first quarter. The Bulls shot a scalding 72.7 percent. The Bulls bench continued to maintain the margin with Doug McDermott finishing a pair of layups and the Bulls leading 51-32 with 5:43 left in the first half. Minnesota began creeping back into the game on Dieng’s shooting, drawing within 56-42 with 2:56 left in the half as the Bulls opening energy subsided. And continued as Minnesota closed the half on a 16-1 run to get within 56-52 at halftime with dominance on the boards.
The Timberwolves’ youth showed early, but their athleticism was apparent in the third quarter as they repeatedly turned Bulls misses into fast breaks to take their first lead of the game at 64-63. Wade then made a three, but Minnesota was coming fast now with Karl-Anthony Towns getting aggressive and the Timberwolves with a double team on Butler than he posted up inside. He ran out for a pair of fast break dunks as Minnesota went into the fourth quarter leading 78-75. Wade was the only Bulls starter with a plus rating through three quarters. But Wade had a pair of early fourth quarter turnovers and it became a battle down the stretch with Minnesota holding an 82-81 lead with 8:52 remaining. The Bulls battled back with Cristiano Felicio retrieving a Mirotic miss for a Butler driving score with 6:03 left for an 87-85 Bulls lead.
The Bulls are 13-11; Minnesota is 7-18