MINNEAPOLIS — After most every loss this season, and there have been a lot of them, Jim Boylen has remained positive more often than not with his postgame comments to reporters.
That changed Wednesday night following the Bulls’ 115-108 loss to the Timberwolves that partially ruined Lauri Markkanen’s return.
“I didn't like it. They got 25 percent of their missed shots back. That's too many. Can't happen. I challenged our group,” Boylen said. “We have to be tougher and more competitive in those moments when there are 50-50 balls in the air. We’ve got to do a better job.
“I don’t care who's coming back. I don't care who's been out, who's working on a minute restriction. I didn’t think we were tough enough tonight and I didn't like it. You can't let them shoot 50 percent and then not rebound the ball. Can’t do it. I didn’t like it.
“I understand what we're operating under and it's difficult on the group, but we've got to be tougher. I want us to rebound the ball better. I want us to be more physical. And I didn’t think our physicality was good enough. I understand that we're trying to work guys back in. I understand we played 11 guys and those things are difficult. But our effort on the defensive board has to be better.”
The Timberwolves grabbed 10 offensive rebounds and scored 14 second-chance points. Neither are egregious totals; the Knicks grabbed 17 offensive rebounds for 32 second-chance points just last Saturday.
With Zach LaVine missing his second straight game to a quad strain and Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr. and Otto Porter Jr. sitting after hitting their minutes restrictions, Boylen also utilized four-guard lineups down the stretch. Nevertheless, Thad Young mostly agreed with Boylen’s assessment.
“The message has always been loud and clear. We have to be tough. We have to play what we call Bulls basketball, which is being a hard-nosed team,” Young said. “Tonight, there were crucial plays where we didn’t get stops or rebounds we needed. It makes it harder when you have those miscues.
“There are some instances where we can be tougher and some instances where we are being tough. The outcome of this game, it is what it is. We have to get more rebounds. For me, I think for the most part the team is trying and playing as hard as it can. It’s just about those extra efforts.”
Boylen began backtracking a bit when further questioned on the team’s toughness and asked how he thinks they’ll respond.
“We’ll see. We’ll see,” he said. “They know. Our guys are good guys. They understand.”
Still, his postgame demeanor stood in stark contrast to the mostly positive approach he has taken this season.
“I am positive guys. I’m coaching my team. Let me coach my team,” he said. “I want us to play our minutes with more force and more energy. When you’ve been out and you come back, the speed of the game is tough. You obviously have a little bit of thought about yourself. How am I gonna get going? What am I going to do? That’s part of this process.
“What I’m talking about — and it’s not negativity; I’m coaching this team — is you gotta play your minutes with force whether you haven’t played in two months or you have. Play hard. Compete. Rebound the ball. That’s all I’m talking about. You can’t control making shots. We had I think four point-blank layups we missed and eight or 10 wide-open 3s we missed. We can’t control those. But we can control our effort on the defensive board.”