Minnesota Timberwolves Status Check:
Home Record: 12-25
Last 10 Games: 2-8
Streak: Lost 7
Last game: Lost 85-82 to the Celtics
PPG: 101.1 (10th)
Opponents PPG: 106.8 (30th)
Offensive Rating: 104.4 (24th)
Defensive Rating: 110.3 (26th)
Pace: 96.4 (1st)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .480 (25th)
Turnover Percentage: .151 (30th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .737 (16th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .305 (1st)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .220 (20th)
Opp. eFG%: .508 (21st)
Opp. TO%: .127 (22nd)
Opp. FT/FGA: .256 (28th)
Leading scorer: Kevin Love (20.3)
Stats from Basketball-Reference.com.
Timberwolves Injury Report:
Kevin Love: strained left groin (probable for tonight’s game)
Nikola Pekovic: strained right hip (probable for tonight’s game)
This game may be just the remedy for the Bulls offensive woes coming off their loss to the Sixers. Chicago shot 41.3 percent from the field, 11 percent from behind the arc (11 percent!? That’s not a typo. Benny the Bull shoots better than that from half court.) and 60 percent (18-30) from the line. Some species of bats shoot higher percentages than that. And for the first time in a while, their defense couldn’t cover up for their offensive ineptitude; partly because Spencer Hawes channeled his inner basketball player and hit three huge jumpers.
The Bull’s offense had been good. Before the loss to Philly, Chicago posted an offensive rating above 100 in nine out of their last ten games (they had a 97.7 O-rating against the Nets).
Chicago now gets to play the second worst team in the league, as far as record goes and the team allowing the most points per game (106.8). The Wolves have had a defensive rating below 100 just once in their last 17 games (71.4 against the Pacers). Eleven out of Minnesota’s last 13 opponents have scored over 100 points.
According to Stats LLC, the Bulls have won three straight in this series after losing 16 of 20.
But this Minnesota team almost beat Boston in their last game (although Boston has been slipping a little bit lately, possibly a Popvich-ian move). They held the Celtics to 85 points. And that was without their best player, Kevin Love. Love is not a good defender, but he is a vacuum on the glass and gets second chance points that Minnesota could have used as they lost by only three points.
This was a continuation of solid play by the Wolves against good teams. The Wolves lost by 8 points each to the Thunder, Mavericks and Lakers. That’s four solid games (especially for a team 40 games below .500) against playoff teams.
But they are in a really tough stretch of their schedule. Coming off that loss from the Celtics, they now have to play the Bulls tonight and the Heat on Friday. That’s the top three teams in the East back-to-back-to-back (They then go on to play Memphis, another playoff team, which as the Bulls found out recently is no easy game). Their record seems like it is only going to get worse.
A bright sport for the Wolves is that they might get their star player back. Love missed the last three games (the Wolves lost all three) because of a groin injury. Mr. Double-double is averaging 20.3 points and leads the league with 15.4 rebounds per game (4.6 of them offensive). Without Love, the Wolves averaged 42.3 rebounds a game, nearly 12 under their season average of 54.1.
Love did just what you would expect him to last time he faced the Bulls. He scored 23 points and grabbed 15 rebounds (3 offensive). But Love had almost half of his team’s rebounds. The Bulls had as many defensive rebounds (36) as the Wolves had total rebounds. Add the Bulls 17 offensive rebounds, and they really crushed the Wolves on the glass. This isn’t the only stat Chicago ran away with (pun intended).
The Bulls dominated the Wolves when it came to the fast break. Chicago had 22 fast break points to Minnesota’s four. Chicago also had 27 points off 21 T-Wolves’ turnovers.
Also in that December game, Derrick Rose set a then career-high, going 5-6 from behind the arc (on March 22 he went 6-8 against the Hawks, which is now his career high).
This is more of what Chicago will need, tonight and going forward into the playoffs. In March, Derrick is shooting just 28.1 percent from three. In the last three games, after setting that career high against Atlanta, he is a combined 0-11 from three. And he has had seven games this month in which he has made zero three pointers; in all of those games he shot at least three times from behind the arc. Rose also started the month cold, going 0-14 from deep in the first three games of March.
But the biggest problem for the Bulls has been their focus. The last two games, that focus hasn’t been what it should be, and the Bulls will be the first ones to admit that. Chicago has fallen behind to their last two opponents, the Bucks and Sixers. If Chicago has the will, which they almost always do, they should be up early on the Wolves.
Every team has bad games; what matters is how a team reacts to those games. The Bulls have come back from losses extremely well all season, and tonight shouldn’t be any different.
About the Author:
Braedan Ritter was born and raised in Pennsylvania but was swayed by gifts from his aunt to follow the Chicago sports teams. It didn’t hurt that the Bulls had a guy named Michael Jordan playing for them, and the Sixers had…Derrick Coleman. Braedan has stuck with Chicago through thick and thin, and really thin (see: Chicago Cubs). And speaking of Coleman, Braedan is currently a student at Syracuse University.