Bulls-Timberwolves Preview

Minnesota Timberwolves Status Check:
Record: 24-43
Division: 3-10
Conference: 14-29
Home Record: 16-16
Last 10 Games: 4-6
Streak: Won 1
Last game: 117-86 win over Phoenix
PPG: 94.8 (20th)
Opponents PPG: 97.7 (15th)
Offensive Rating: 102.1 (25th)
Defensive Rating: 105.3 (13th)
Pace: 92.5 (11th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .467 (28th)
Turnover Percentage: .140 (18th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .738 (15th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .284 (10th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .226 (5th)
Opp. eFG%: .507 (22nd)
Opp. TO%: .147 (5th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .188 (6th)
Leading scorer: Nikola Pekovic (15.6)

Stats from Basketball-Reference

Minnesota Injury Report:
Malcolm Lee: out (knee/hip surgery)
Kevin Love: out (hand/finger surgery)
Brandon Roy: out (knee)

The short-handed Bulls pulled off an improbable win over Indiana Saturday night, moving into sole possession of sixth place in the Eastern Conference and avoiding a sweep at the hands of their Central Division rivals.

The Bulls were without Derrick Rose and Rip Hamilton, as usual, but were also down Joakim Noah because of his plantar fasciitis. That would have been enough of a hill to climb, but Chicago would lose Nate Robinson after he was ejected and Daequan Cook, who was injured late in the fourth quarter. Robinson was ejected for a flagrant foul on Lance Stephenson with less than 30 seconds left in the third.

Cook being injured normally wouldn’t hurt the Bulls chances of winning, but he had a solid game, posting nine points, five rebounds and two assists in 17 minutes of action.

Nate was having a pretty good game as well, as he too finished with nine points to go with five assists and five turnovers.

And even though the Bulls were supremely understaffed by the end of the night, Luol Deng logged the most minutes with 36. That’s back-to-back games that I have praised Tom Thibodeau for his minute allocation. Something is very wrong. One of us must be sick. Or maybe, just maybe, Thibs is starting to ease off the gas and rest some guys down the stretch so that they are fresher in the playoffs. That’s probably not it. He must be sick.

The Timberwolves are coming off their biggest road win since 2004, a 31-point thrashing of the Suns. Andrei Kirilenko led the way with 20 points, Dante Cunningham dropped 18 off the bench and Minnesota shot 53.2 percent from the field.

If there is one team that can match the Bulls in the injury department, it’s probably Minnesota. Kevin Love is out, as is Brandon Roy. And during the season they’ve had just about everybody on the injury report at some point. They even had a point guard recovering from a torn ACL, but theirs came back.

They are also close to the Bulls when it comes to three point inefficiency. Minnesota is dead last in the league in three point shooting percentage, hitting at a rate of 29.2. The Bulls are fourth worst, shooting 33.8 from deep. The Bulls are also fourth best though, when it comes to defending the three, allowing opponents to connect on 33.9 percent of treys. The Timberwolves are 18th in the NBA defending the three (36.0 percent).

This stat was important in the first game between the teams, a seven point win for the Bulls. Chicago hit six of their 13 three point attempts (46.2 percent), led by Rip (2-3) and Marco Belinelli (3-5). The Wolves struggled from deep though, finishing 3-13 from deep, or 23.1 percent. Kirilenko and Alexey Shved both went 0-3.

Noah is expected to be out again because of his plantar fasciitis, and Kirk Hinrich may miss the game as well after bruising his thigh against Indiana. How will the Bulls be able to make up for Kirk’s missing stats? He went 1-5 from the field for two points against Indiana, while coughing it up three times and dishing five assists. Without those two starters, the Bulls will try to win back-to-back games for the second times since the beginning of February.

Chicago has dropped five of their last six on the road, but have beaten Minnesota six straight times.

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