Bulls Win Battle On The Boards, Top Wolves 104-97
Both teams are missing All-Star contributors due to injury, but the Chicago Bulls were able to piece together a team effort—including 34 total points off the bench from Nate Robinson and Taj Gibson—to edge out a 104-97 victory over the Timberwolves on Sunday night.
“We just didn't play hard enough at the start of the game,” coach Rick Adelman said. “They got control of it. The second half we picked it up but it was too late. We shot decently but they killed the boards.”
The Timberwolves didn’t shoot poorly at all. In fact, their shooting rate was 50 percent, better than Chicago’s 46.1. But the rebounding differential was simply too lopsided, as the Bulls held a 52-32 advantage.
“Rebounding won the game,” Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We had a lot of people step up, play well. We had some good looks that we didn’t make, but we got a second and third shot at it. That gave us life.”
Wolves vs. Bulls
A flurry of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter drew the Wolves as close as five points down, but a 7-for-11 free throw effort from Chicago late in the game helped seal the win.
Nazr Mohammed (10 rebounds) made his second straight start replacing Joakim Noah, who sat out with back spasms. With Derrick Rose and Rip Hamilton out, the star for Chicago was reserve guard Nate Robinson, hitting 4-of-8 from long range and netting 22 points off the bench. He also dished 10 assists.
He hurt us,” Adelman said of Robinson. “Shot it well, had 10 assists, had a lot of quickness and he gave them a lift when he came in off the bench."
Jimmy Butler made his seventh start of the year and added 20 points with nine boards. Simply put, the Bulls made up for the absences of their three starters with elevated play from their replacements.
“Yeah, they could complain about how many guys they got hurt,” Ricky Rubio said. “They didn’t do that, they just played aggressive and we have to learn from that. If they can do it, we can do it too.”
Derrick Williams scored 28 points for Minnesota, his second-highest total for the season. Nikola Pekovic and Rubio each recorded 15 points with Rubio adding eight assists.
Just days after a dominating win over Phoenix, the Wolves dropped Sunday night’s game to begin a week where they will play five contests. They have not won consecutive games since Dec. 15, when they won their fourth straight in a win over the Mavericks.
“You set the tone,” Adelman said. “We have to learn to do it first. We can't let them dominate the game from the start and get a feel for how the game is going to go."
Leader of the Pack: Derrick Williams
After scoring just four points against Phoenix on Friday, Derrick Williams shot 11-for-18 against Chicago for 28 points, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range. Williams has been the Wolves’ leading scorer in nine of the last 16 games.
“I was a little hard on myself, especially at halftime,” Williams said. “I decided I had to take shots, good shots as well, and my teammates were finding me in the second half. You just have to be aggressive like that the whole game.”
Play of the Game
Three consecutive big 3-point makes from Budinger, Shved and Williams, respectively, pulled the Wolves within five points around the six-minute mark. The 13-5 run that held these shots gave Minnesota some hope, but a 3-pointer from Nate Robinson and a pair of free throws from Jimmy Butler pushed Chicago’s lead back up to 10.
“You have to want it. In moments when you can’t feel your legs or you’re tired, you have to keep doing it. In that point of the season, you start getting tired and maybe not fighting to be in playoffs, I don’t care, I just want to win every game and we have to do it.”
— Wolves guard Ricky Rubio
The Wolves take a quick one-game road trip to Detroit on Tuesday to face the Pistons, then they will come back to start a four-game homestand beginning with the Lakers on Wednesday.