Bulls bounce back, top Timberwolves
November 10, 2012, 9:13 pm
After Thursday’s disappointing home loss at the hands of Oklahoma City, the Bulls (4-2) took out their frustrations on Saturday’s visitor to the United Center, the Timberwolves (4-2). While the 87-80 victory was by no means an offensive clinic, the Bulls’ blend of defense (Minnesota shot 38.8 percent from the floor), scoring from unexpected sources (the reserve back court of Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli scored 17 and 11 points off the bench, respectively) and perseverance (starting point guard Kirk Hinrich was injured during the contest) were significant factors in the win.
Led by the energetic play of the boisterous Joakim Noah (17 points, seven rebounds, four blocked shots), who showcased his improved offensive repertoire by sandwiching a 15-foot jumper between two dunks, the Bulls took a slim lead in the early stages of the contest.
The battle between Noah and rugged Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic (18 points, eight rebounds) was a study in contrasts, but with Minnesota missing veteran Brandon Roy—the shooting guard sat out the contest with soreness in his right knee; the visitors were already missing young stars Ricky Rubio and All-Star Kevin Love, also due to injury—the hosts theoretically had their guests outmanned.
Luol Deng’s (16 points, seven rebounds, four assists) strong start to the season also continued, manifesting itself in some early offense, as did his running mate on the wing, Rip Hamilton, who was aggressive from the outset.
But behind Pekovic—whose job became easier after Noah exited with a left-knee laceration, though he would return—and his 10 points in the frame, the Timberwolves kept things close and at the conclusion of the first quarter, the Bulls held a narrow 20-19 advantage.
At the beginning of the second period, the Bulls seemingly couldn’t get anything, as there were several frustrating in-and-out misses, which Minnesota capitalized upon in the close-knit affair. However, Robinson (18 points) single-handedly picked up the energy inside the United Center—a steal and fast-break layup, then a contested three-pointer gave him a personal 5-0 run—to take back the lead for the home team and provide them with some breathing room, along with support from fellow reserve Taj Gibson (eight points, eight rebounds) and Noah, who returned to the contest.
But just as quickly, Robinson had a spate of turnovers that allowed Minnesota to get back into the game, prompting a Bulls timeout, after which the visitors continued to make their push and eventually regained the lead. At the intermission, the Bulls trailed, 41-40, and Hinrich leaving the game late in the half with a strained right hip didn’t help matters.
After the break, the Bulls emphasized their transition game, but even pushing the tempo baskets were hard to come by, aside from the virtuoso contributions of Robinson, who started the third quarter in place of the injured Hinrich, and continued to be the Bulls’ offensive catalyst. Minnesota responded with an outside-shooting barrage, keyed by the starting back court of Luke Ridnour and Chase Budinger, and despite the Hamilton and Noah increasing their offensive productivity, the contest remained close.
While the flow of the Bulls’ offense left something to be desired, Robinson was effective as a scorer and eventually, the likes of Noah, Hamilton and Deng also got in the mix. At the end of the period, rookie Marquis Teague was inserted into the contest and promptly scored the first regular-season points of his young NBA career—immediately followed by committing a foul with 0.3 seconds remaining in the quarter—giving the Bulls a 63-59 lead heading into the final stanza.
Belinelli (11 points, 3-of-4 three-point shooting), considered a mild disappointment early in his tenure with the Bulls, knocked down a trio of triples early in the period, living up to his billing as a sharpshooter and inspiring both a subdued United Center audience and his teammates. Noah, for instance, was a major presence on defense, blocking a pair of Timberwolves’ shots in a single possession, while Deng, in a subtly fierce battle with the similarly versatile Andrei Kirilenko (11 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists), found ways to score in transition and on the offensive glass.
As the Bulls’ defense clamped down to make scoring a premium, the hosts maintained a comfortable winning margin as the game entered its stretch run, with interior shot-blocking of Noah and Gibson being major deterrents to Minnesota’s attack and timely scoring ensuring no last-minute comeback would be made, despite the Timberwolves’ valiant efforts. As usual, it wasn’t pretty—and through the three games in the preseason and regular slate these two teams has played, it rarely has been—but for the Bulls, it got the job done, through both unconventional and expected measures.
Tags: Chicago Bulls
, Luol Deng
, minnesota timberwolves
, Marco Belinelli
, carlos boozer
, Andrei Kirilenko