The Chicago Bulls allowed the Minnesota Timberwolves to have a sliver of hope toward the end of Saturday night’s 114-105 preseason win, but the Bulls’ efficient three-point shooting provided a cushion for them. And that three-point shooting success began early on.
The Bulls struggled offensively to start the game, going only 2-of-9 from the field. Their first four points came off of free throws from Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic. Then, the two lone made field goals came from Kirk Hinrich: a fast-break layup off a steal and a long left-wing jumper. Despite the slow start, the Bulls still led the Timberwolves 8-2 at the time of the first timeout, the 6:58 mark of the first.
Coming out of that timeout, though, the Bulls caught fire. Mirotic hit back-to-back threes to suddenly give the Bulls the 14-2 lead. That sparked their offense and fueled them to thrive on both ends of the court for the remainder of the first quarter. The Bulls made four more threes afterwards to contribute to their 34 first-quarter points while holding the Timberwolves to 16 points.
The Bulls then carried that momentum into the second quarter, but they hit a drought in the latter half of the period. During that time, the Timberwolves went on a 6-0 run that brought the score to a single-digit deficit, 59-50. But the plethora of threes cushioned the Bulls enough for them to maintain the lead through the quarter.
Come halftime, the Bulls led the Timberwolves 65-55 and were 11-for-19 on threes and shot 50 percent from the field. Meanwhile, the Timberwolves were only 14-of-39 on field goals, but their 22 free throws were keeping them in the game. The Bulls maintained that lead throughout the remainder of the game. The third quarter was pretty evenly matched with the Bulls scoring 24 points to the Timberwolves’ 22, but the Timberwolves found some life in the final 12 minutes.
To open the fourth quarter, the Timberwolves went on an 8-5 run that brought the point differential to single digits, 94-85. Andrew Wiggins then went off for seven points in about two minutes, but it wasn’t enough. The Bulls had scrounged up enough baskets to hold them off — both Cameron Bairstow and Cristiano Felicio made threes. At the end of the night, the Bulls had shot 44.4 percent on threes and 49.4 percent overall — coming as a result of even contributions.
E’Twaun Moore led all scorers with 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting, but five other Bulls scored in double figures: Doug McDermott (16), Hinrich (13), Bobby Portis (12), Bairstow (11) and Aaron Brooks (10). In fact, of the 13 Bulls who saw playing time Saturday night, only two didn’t score — Jordan Crawford and Marcus Simmons, who both only played two minutes of garbage time.
Pau Gasol also added eight points in his preseason debut, but he sat out the second half entirely. He started at center for Joakim Noah, who sat out with a minor knee bruise. Noah suffered it from Thursday’s loss to the Denver Nuggets during a rebounding battle with Kenneth Faried. Taj Gibson remained sidelined.
The Bulls will play again Monday night in Chicago to face the New Orleans Pelicans at 7:00 p.m. central.
Ashley is the owner/editor of The Bulls Charge. Follow her on Twitter at @wijangco12.