If anybody thought the Bulls were going to fall into a trap the night after they beat the Lakers for the first time since 2006, then those people were wrong.
By a lot.
The Bulls thrashed the Timberwolves — who beat the Pistons in Minnesota the night before — without mercy or remorse. Chicago was up 21 points at halftime and led by as many as 34 in the second half. For all intents and purposes, the game was over after 24 minutes. The only drama in the second half was about whether the Bulls would earn their fans a free Big Mac by scoring 100 points.
Mission accomplished. Greasy deathburgers for everyone!
The Bulls’ dominance was complete and utter. The Timberwolves are a bad team. No question about it. However, they entered the game leading the league in both Total Rebounds and Offensive Rebound Percentage. But although Kevin Love had himself a game — game-highs in points (23) and rebounds (15) — Chicago won the rebounding battle 53-36. That included a 17-11 edge on the offensive glass.
But wait. There’s more.
The Bulls forced 21 turnovers for 27 points. They scored 22 points in transition. They held Minnesota to 39 percent shooting. They blocked 11 shots. They hit 58 percent of their three-pointers (10-for-18). I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point.
Frankly, I wouldn’t have blamed T-Wolves coach Kurt Rambis if he’d called a cardiologist mid-game.
His team needed 12 heart transplants. Stat.
That’s life in the NBA. A bad team playing on the road against a good team on the second night of back-to-back games can be a prescription for disaster. Just ask the Bulls. They’ve been on the receiving end of several similar beat-downs over the past two or three seasons.
Only now they’re the beater instead of the ones being beaten. Feels good.
You know what else feels good? At 14-8, the Bulls are now six games over .500 for the first time since finishing the 2006-07 season with a 49-33 record. They only player left from that squadis Luol Deng.
Chicago’s winning streak is up to five games. And check out their next five games: versus the Pacers (11-11), at Toronto (8-15), versus the Clippers (5-18), versus the Sixers (7-15) and at Washington (6-16).
If the Bulls keep playing with the focus and intensity they played with this weekend, they could run their winning streak to 10 in a row.
Derrick Rose (21 points, 7 assists, 3 rebounds) stayed hot. He went 8-for-10 from the field and connected on a career-best five three-pointers. He is now 37-for-89 over the first 22 games. That’s a 41 percent conversion rate. Wow…right? By comparison, he was 32-for-132 during his first two seasons.
Carlos Boozer didn’t shoot all that well from the field (5-for-14), but he was 7-for-7 from the line and finished with 17 points and 7 rebounds in only 24 minutes. And the Bulls were +21 when he was on the floor. Good things seem to happen when the Bulls post him up early in the shot clock.
Joakim Noah had another rough shooting night (3-for-8). But he rebounded well (10 boards) and blocked 6 shots.
Luol Deng continues to thrive in his new role as third scorer. He finished with 19 points on 7-for-11 shooting. During his last seven games, Deng is shooting 50 percent from the field and 52 from beyond the arc.
Taj Gibson got some decent minutes (24) and responded with a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds).
Kyle Korver scored in double figures for the fifth game in a row. But even more important than his 12 points was the fact that the Bulls were +21 when he was in the game. That plus-minus score was tied with Carlos Boozer for the best of the night. Korver may lack lateral quickness on defense, but there’s little question that Chicago’s offense runs more smoothly when his shooting is keeping opposing defenses honest. I’d love to see him start at shooting guard for a while.
In their past four games, the Bulls have held their opponents to 90, 83, 84 and 82 points.
Said Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau: “The defense is coming around. Our ball pressure is improved, our weak side is improved, but we still have a long ways to go. There are a lot of areas where we can improve on.”