Bulls outlast Timberwolves in double OT, 139-131

This wasn’t Batman and Robin Friday in the Bulls 139-131 double overtime victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

This wasn’t the two Hawkeyes as much as the two Deadeyes, DeMar DeRozan and Zach Lavine both shooting 15 for 25 and combining for a franchise-best single game most 88 points, 49 for DeRozan with the tying basket in regulation and LaVine with 39 points and the equalizer in the first overtime.

Captain Montenegro, Nikola Vučević, joined in with the effective clinching driving dunk score on a LaVine pass with 1:13 in the second overtime. Vučević had just 21 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals while helping Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert to foul out in the first overtime.

This wasn’t Power Man and Iron Fist, though LaVine and DeRozan’s play was awfully powerful, 14 rebounds for DeRozan and a team-best five assists for LaVine along with crucial LaVine defensive stands to close the regulation and first overtime against Mike Conley and Kyle Anderson. This wasn’t Flash and the Green Lantern as much as the Timberwolves had to be green with envy during the St. Patrick’s Day matinee watching LaVine as the Bulls first overtime lead scorer and DeRozan the second.

This simply was Batman and Superman, superheros to the rescue of the Bulls season.

“Just shows how dynamic and dominant we are when me and him get it rollin’,” said DeRozan. “You got to make a decision of what you’ve got to do with one of us. When we’ve got it rollin’ like that it makes everything so much easier. Not just to score but to playmake and get everyone involved. When it comes down to me and Zach, (that is) what we are capable of doing when we’ve got it rollin’.”

Not that there was much play making to be done as LaVine, DeRozan and Vučević scored all the Bulls points in both overtimes and had 109 of the Bulls 139 points and 24 of the 30 free throw attempts, DeRozan with 17 of 18. They let the other kids play, though not that much with the games now meaning so much. Nothing personal, but they had this.

“Double overtime we both knew what we had to do,” said LaVine. “Two guys get it going like that it’s pick your poison. D had it going in the first half. You know what he does in the fourth quarter. I was just trying to complement him once they started doubling and it worked out at the end. We know we can play with anybody. We’ve just got to turn it into wins; that’s all that matters. These last 13 games all that matters is that W.”

The win got the Bulls past the Washington Wizards and Indiana Pacers back into 10th in the Eastern Conference and the last play-in tournament position at 32-37 with a tough second of the back-to-back Saturday in the United Center against the Miami Heat. DeRozan Friday played 52 minutes, LaVine 47 and Vučević 46.

But in a version of Satchel Paige’s famous, Don’t look back; something might be gaining on you, for the Bulls there’s no time to look ahead because you may miss the present. 

“Get a win and move on to the next game,” said LaVine.

Zach LaVine scored 39 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves in a double overtime Bulls win on Friday, March 17.
Zach LaVine attempts a layup against the Timberwolves.

That’s about it for now, though there also was a heck of a lot of entertainment again, this time for the Bulls with a happier ending with the victory. And as duos go also some Laurel and Hardy and Abbott and Costello. 

Forget who’s on first and what’s on second because this was a lot of I don’t know. At least from the Timberwolves perspective. Yes, it also was another fine mess.

Especially when with 46.7 seconds left in regulation and the Bulls trailing 113-111, LaVine and DeRozan seemed to be figuring the defense as they sashayed up court. The Bulls were called for a backcourt eight-second violation with DeRozan having the ball.

“I made a dumb ass play," DeRozan later acknowledged, albeit with a smile given the result.

Conley then missed a three to give the Bulls life and DeRozan redeemed himself with a brilliant crossover drive and left handed finish for a layup and 113 tie with 20.8 seconds left in regulation.

Oh no, another buzzer beater loss?

“It’s the position we’ve been in,” agreed LaVine. “You’d rather have the ball than be on defense. Although we did a good job defensively not letting them get a clean look off at the end of the game.”

Thanks primarily to LaVine causing an Anderson turnover with a tenth of a second left in the regulation.

"People can talk about my defense all they want to,” said LaVine, often criticized about that end. “I've always been one of the best on-ball defenders. One-on-one situations, there's not a lot of people that are going to get by me.”

Though the Timberwolves helped out as they would repeatedly in the overtimes. Though you see this often. Not wanting to allow the Bulls a shot, the Timberwolves dribbled down the clock to perhaps the worst position they could, resulting in the turnover.

Then the Bulls almost obliged in what would have perhaps summarized or symbolized the season coming out of the timeout with six players on the court. That would have been a Timberwolves technical foul with a tenth of a second left in regulation. Finally, Bulls coach Billy Donovan waved off Patrick Williams.

Though much dumber was to come. That’s right, who says only the college guys do the idiot stuff.

So into the overtime the Bulls and Timberwolves went, first with tough shots, Minnesota’s Jaden McDaniels with a three for a 118-115 Minnesota lead with 3:01 left. He had 25 points and Conley 28 with eight threes. The Bulls survived their three-point constraints, making 11 to Minnesota’s 18 as the Timberwolves missed 10 free throws, two crucial ones by Gobert with that two-point Minnesota lead right before the eight-second at the close of regulation.

Vučević tied the game into that first overtime on a corner three. Conley came right back with a three  to give Minnesota a 121-118 lead with 1:54 left.

“They made some tough shots, we made some tough shots,” said LaVine. “But I think we upped our intensity and our guys made some big plays.”

DeMar DeRozan scored 49 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves in a double overtime Bulls win on Friday, March 17.
DeMar DeRozan scored 49 points and grabbed 14 rebounds against the Timberwolves.

DeRozan got the Bulls back tied with a driving three-point play with 1:05 left that fouled out Gobert, who had 21 points and 19 rebounds. But a note about those Defensive Player of the Year awards. Do you watch this guy play! The Bulls repeatedly got inside for 60 points in the paint. Gobert did have five blocks, but he’s so slow to react so often it’s not that difficult to score inside.

Anyway, back to the stupid moment of the night.

Fortunately this time with the opponent, though we’ve never seen anything like this from the Bulls.

It reminded me of the Mark Twain quote considering some of the crucial late game decisions by the Timberwolves: “Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” 

McDaniels, who did play an excellent game, made an unlikely floater to give Minnesota a 123-121 lead with 42.7 seconds left in that first overtime. LaVine then got into a sprint after an inbounds pass and tried to dunk for a tie. But Naz Reid in for Gobert blocked the attempt and the ball went to the Timberwolves with 20.6 seconds left and a two-point lead.

Conley got the ball and began dribbling into the front court with a two-point lead and the shot clock off.

Zach LaVine celebrates against the Minnesota Timberwolves in a double overtime Bulls win on Friday, March 17.
Zach LaVine finished with 39 points in the victory.

OK, class, anyone know what happens next?

Conley, the 82 percent free throw shooter, gave up the ball with the Bulls running to foul. He passed to Taurean Prince, an 84 percent shooter. OK, not bad.

This is the good part (for the Bulls).

Prince for some reason began to drive to the basket in an attempt to score. With Coby White stepping up to foul him, DeRozan slid in front and instead of holding the ball, the Prince of backslides passed backward to... Patrick Beverley. Huh.

“I don’t know what they were doing,” said LaVine. “I went hard, didn’t get the call (on the dunk attempt). We got the ball back and ended up making a layup on the other end; that was fortunate. But it’s basketball.”

Is that really basketball?

Beverley advanced the ball after the pass from Prince (who his coach probably wanted to crown in some other form) and passed to LaVine. On the run, the Bulls’ best athlete had an easy time going through Conley for the layup to tie the game at 123 with 11.5 seconds left in the first overtime.

Make that other duo Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels.

And again Minnesota went with that last-second-bad-shot strategy, though this time LaVine shut off the inbounds pass to Conley. So Minnesota had to throw the ball into the backcourt, wasting time. LaVine never let Conley get to the ball. So Reid passed to McDaniels with 5.4 seconds left in that first overtime. McDaniels then only had a chance to turn and pull up at the three point line. His shot went short.

Second overtime.

“It’s always fun going out there, competing, fighting as a basketball player competitor,” said DeRozan. “You love big moments like this. They fought extremely hard, we fought extremely hard. It was a big game for us. We just stuck with it. Every timeout we were on each other, speaking up defensively, what we needed to do. Get stops, trying to execute the best we can. Just stayed on one another every chance. It gets fun being in those moments, the crowd involved. You feel the fight from both sides. Just that adrenaline was definitely fun.”

Especially in that second overtime when the Bulls never trailed, LaVine with a short jumper to start, Conley tying the game on free throws. But then it was LaVine with his fourth three and Vučević with the first of his two big dunks in the overtime.

“When Vooch made that (second) dunk (with 1:02 left) we finally took a breath,” LaVine admitted.

That made it 135-129 Bulls with 1:02 left. Reid got a score for Minnesota. But then it was DeRozan to the free throw line and timber for those ‘wolves.

Nikola Vučević celebrates a dunk during the second overtime period of a win against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday, March 17.
Nikola Vučević notched a double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds against the Timberwolves.

Who did make it more of a game then expected when their best player, Anthony Edwards, left the game in the first quarter with eight points in eight minutes and a severely sprained ankle. They still were without injured Karl-Anthony Towns and lost Gobert for that second overtime. Alex Caruso did return from illness and started for the Bulls, who got limited bench play as Minnesota had a 38-19 edge. Which helped the Timberwolves get a 13-point second quarter lead and five at halftime. Minnesota did get their lead back to 10 early in the fourth quarter. Though White did make two big fourth quarter threes for the Bulls to make it playground setting down the stretch. It became the see-saw of 28 ties and lead changes and some of those curious decisions. 

And it probably felt even better this was the team that send the Bulls to their season low point back in December when the Timberwolves scored 150 and won by 24.

“Good enough to win,” said LaVine. “So I’m happy with that. We started off slow and closed the gap at halftime. We weren’t playing great, but were only down five and going into the fourth we had to make up a gap and we did that. Play hard, leave it all out there and I think that’s what we did. We made mistakes, but we were doing everything with the right mindset.”

Like super men in this game.

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