Fred Hoiberg was in no mood to discuss the minutia of the Bulls’ puzzling overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, a game that had “trap!” written all over it, a game Hoiberg was curious about in terms of seeing how his team would respond after Thursday’s exhilarating win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
There wasn’t much to say considering the Bulls went scoreless in overtime for the first time in their 50-year history and after the 6:33 mark of the fourth quarter, missed 19 of their last 20 shots in their 102-93 loss at the United Center.
He could’ve pointed to getting outrebounded 58-50, or the 19 turnovers, or giving up seven 3-pointers to a team that doesn’t like shooting them.
It wasn’t an eye-popping loss like earlier in the week against Charlotte, but you’d be hard-pressed to find someone associated with the Bulls to say the team put forth the necessary concentration Saturday afternoon.
The smooth veneer worn by Hoiberg looked more like a sneer when he met with the media, equally puzzled and frustrated in having to explain what everybody has seen twice in a very young season.
“We get 82 opportunities to put on a jersey to go out and play for your team,” Hoiberg said.
In two of the seven, the efforts have been alarming, particularly against teams not expected to be in the playoff hunt come April.
“I can’t understand how we play with as much energy as we did the other night and then show up the next night just expecting to win the game,” Hoiberg said. “It’s tough to fathom how that can happen.”
Some would point to last season as the start of a trend, leading Derrick Rose to say the time to be alarmed is “right now”.
“It’s all about effort. At some point we’ll get tired of getting our asses whupped. One day,” Rose said. “It’s all about bringing that championship caliber effort. We gotta stay more consistent, we have to stay more together while we’re out there.”
Instead it was the young Timberwolves who played with cohesiveness, taking every opportunity the Bulls gave them from start to finish and played with remarkable poise down the stretch while the Bulls seemingly self-destructed.
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Rose, Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic built a house of bricks with bad shooting and tentative play, and the game very well could’ve ended in regulation until Pau Gasol tipped in an errant Mirotic miss with 21 seconds left to tie the game at 93, setting up overtime.
Rose shot 3-for-13, Butler was 4-for-15 which included missing all of his seven 3-point attempts and Mirotic struggled again, getting in foul trouble and missed seven of eight shots in 17 minutes.
His last three games, Mirotic has totaled 11 points with 12 rebounds on just 4-for-24 shooting. For the night, the Bulls shot 36 percent, but in the second half and overtime, shot 26 percent (14 for 54).
“We got off to a fine start, but then we missed four layups out there,” Hoiberg said. “We need to manufacture some good looks and get the ball moving.”
But they weren’t equipped for the final five minutes, going scoreless and not even getting good shots, as Karl-Anthony Towns rebounded from early foul trouble to score 17 points and 13 rebounds, including a thunderous swat of a Rose layup in overtime, and Andrew Wiggins led all scorers with 31 points, including four 3-pointers.
Wiggins’ spin and dunk with 55.5 seconds left tied the game at 91, and Prince’s running hook with 27 seconds left gave them a lead before Gasol’s timely tip-in.
Wiggins was wearing Butler and the Bulls out early, with 22 in the first half before cooling off late, but the Bulls weren’t able to run away and hide in the fourth, leading by six after a Tony Snell corner triple.
The Timberwolves kept coming, despite shooting just 41 percent from the field, were able to play sound defense to stay in it to scrap themselves into an overtime affair.
Many of the Bulls warning signs were abound.
Missed rotations defensively.
Coming up empty after easy opportunities were squandered.
And those darned turnovers, after a one-game reprieve, reappearing like a rash that refused to go away.
“I wish I knew why that happens,” Hoiberg said. “I would like to think when I played this game a million years ago, one thing I did was break through a wall every time I stepped on that floor. We have to fix it.”
Rose echoed his coach’s sentiments, believing part of the problem is a matter of familiarity but also being troubled by the sporadic efforts.
“Coach is doing a good job of putting us in different groups and lineups,” Rose said. “This is the worst you’ll see us play and hopefully in a couple days you’ll see the difference.”