The Chicago Bulls lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves by a score of 121-117 on Sunday night, giving the Wolves just their 14th win on the season.
The Chicago Bulls’ diagnosis for bad defense is now even worse than initially anticipated.
The Timberwolves have the 22nd ranked offense in the NBA at 110.2 points per game and they are the third-worst shooting team in the NBA, averaging 44.9 percent from the field.
The Bulls just let them have 121 points in the game and allowed them to shoot 49.4 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from behind the arc. The game-changer for the Wolves was free-throw shooting. The Bulls handed them 25 attempts at the line off of 19 fouls and the Timberwolves made every single shot.
Zach LaVine kept them in this game himself. He scored an impressive 14 points in the third quarter, closing the 11-point gap the Timberwolves created going into halftime. LaVine ended with 30 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. He shot just under 50 percent from the field, but 25 percent from downtown. He attempted and missed just one free throw on the night.
If there was a game ball to give out after losing to the worst team in the NBA, it would go to Troy Brown. Brown scored 15 points on 6/7 shooting from the field, tacking on seven rebounds and two assists. His most impressive attribution to the night was his defense which something head coach Billy Donovan urged him to implement when he first arrived at the Bulls. Brown took a lot out of D’Angelo Russell, even though he scored 27 points off the bench.
The bench scored a terrific 50 points for the Bulls in this one. Brown (15), Theis (13), and White (11) were the only bench players in double figures. Thaddeus Young and Williams uncharacteristically slacked hard on offense, combining for just nine points (all scored by Young).
Let’s talk defense.
We can chat about offense all day long, but that’s not the problem. The problem here is defense and it’s a big problem. Just check back the statistics on the Timberwolves to see why it’s a problem.
Man-to-man defense. Ricky Rubio sticks out like a sore thumb in the box scores. The main issue with Rubio is that he cashed in five of his six three-point attempts. Rubio this season is shooting 27.9 percent from behind the arc so he should not be putting down five against the Bulls. As a team, the Wolves shot 44.4 percent from three, making 16/36 together. The Bulls are missing their assignments.
Karl-Anthony Towns was another issue as well. He nearly put up a triple-double, scoring 27 points, 12 rebounds, and eight assists on the night. Nikola Vucevic had a tough time guarding him in the paint which is something he needs to improve on. KAT also threw down an emphatic jam over Vucevic, simply reiterating Vucevic’s need to work on rim protection.
The defensive shifts were poor in this one. On one play in the fourth quarter, Tomas Satoransky missed help-side defense, allowing KAT to score an easy layup down the lane over LaVine. These types of defensive shifts were frequent and costly for the Bulls.
Another problem on defense for the Bulls was fouling. The Bulls fouled the Timberwolves 19 times on the night. They allowed the Timberwolves to shoot 25 free throw attempts against them. The Bulls themselves shot just over half of those attempts with just 13 free throw attempts.
In a nutshell, the Bulls’ defense was atrocious. This led to their continued bad habit of rushing the offense once they’re down in late-game situations. LaVine was able to bury some pretty rushed shots but patience and composure are something the Bulls need to work on. Alas, it all comes back to defense to support that issue.
The Bulls’ loss is quite worrisome. In the meantime, the Bulls will travel south to play the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday which is their last away game before playing their next three after that at the United Center.