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History Vault: Timberwolves Finally Take Down Jordan's Bulls

by Kyle Ratke, Digital Content Manager

Digital Content Manager


The Timberwolves were 0-16 all-time against the Chicago Bulls heading into the 1997-98 season. 

Up to that point, the Timberwolves had made the playoffs just once in 1996-97 with a record of 40-42. The Bulls, led by that Michael Jordan guy, had made the playoffs in every one of those seasons and had won five NBA championships. 

They’d win No. 6 in 1997-98.

While 0-16 seems extreme, the Timberwolves were finding their footing in the league after some rough years to start, while the Bulls had the best player to ever play the game.

The Timberwolves got close to taking down the Bulls on Feb. 16, 1996. Minnesota lost 103-100 at Target Center. Isaiah Rider’s 29 points weren’t enough against Jordan and Scottie Pippen’s combined 64 points.

When teams have not-so-great streaks like this, mental roadblocks start to appear. It’s also easy to get in your head when you’re playing against someone like Jordan, who nobody in the league had any answers for.

During the 1996-97 season, the Timberwolves were swept again by the Bulls.

Minnesota’s next chance to knock off Chicago was on Dec. 30, 1997. 

It was pretty unlikely considering the Bulls had just rattled off eight-straight wins. Then again, the Wolves had won three-straight games and they were catching the Bulls on the second half of a back-to-back.

For me, this game was a bit before my basketball-watching prime. In 1997, I was seven years old. I can’t say that I remember watching the early days of KG and Stephon Marbury. As far as Jordan goes, I probably remember him more during his stint with the Wizards than with the Bulls. I’m not sure if I should be embarrassed by that, but whatever.

This is a fun game to rewatch. You get to hear Kevin Harlan’s voice call the game, before he was THE Kevin Harlan. His partner in crime was former Gophers star and Knicks player Trent Tucker.

Chicago was led by Jordan and Pippen, but of course there was also Toni Kukoc, Ron Harper and Steve Kerr.

As for the Timberwolves, this was Kevin Garnett’s third season in the league while it was Marbury’s second. Behind these two, the Wolves were supposed to be the next big thing in the West. Of course, you can’t forget Tom Gugliotta as the third member of this. 

You’ll have the opportunity to take a trip down memory lane (if it is indeed in your memory) or for some, to watch the game for the first time, on Apr. 9 at 7 p.m. CT on Fox Sports North.

A few things to watch for:

  • KG, Marbury and Gugliotta combined for 66 points in this game, shooting a combined 26-for-46 from the field. It’s so hard not to think what could have been when watching these guys. Gugliotta continues to be extremely underrated the more I watch him during his prime.
  • The Timberwolves made just one 3-pointer in the game while the Bulls made five. My goodness how things have changed. 
  • The third quarter was huge for the Wolves, outscoring the Bulls 23-16 in the quarter. A huge part of that was limited Jordan. While Jordan ended up with four points in the quarter, he was 0-for-5 from the field and had two turnovers. As a team, the Bulls shot just 5-for-17 in the quarter while the Wolves shot 10-for-16.

After starting 0-16 against the Bulls, the Timberwolves are 26-17 since. Turns out when a team doesn’t have the best player in the world, it’s good news for the opposing team.

FSN’s Jim Petersen and The Athletic’s Britt Robson will be live-tweeting the game.

You can follow Petersen here, and you can follow Robson here.


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