By Jeff Hamilton
WINNIPEG — Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg wanted to see a bounce back game from his troops following a 112-94 loss to the Denver Nuggets Thursday, calling the “little bit adversity” created from the Bulls’ first preseason defeat “not the worst thing in the world” for his team.
He got what he wanted two nights later as the Bulls downed the Minnesota Timberwolves in a rare clash north of the border, beating their opponent 114-105 in front of an energetic, sold-out crowd of 15, 294 at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Man.
“Yeah, absolutely,” said Hoiberg after the game. “I thought the guys really went out and competed. The defense was something we wanted to improve on in a big way and we took a step in the right direction.”
E’Twaun Moore paced the Bulls with 18 points — one of six Bulls players to hit double-digits on the night — shooting 8-for-12 from the field including 2-for-5 from behind the arc.
“We have everyone ready on offense, you don’t know who will get the shot at the end and that’s just fun basketball,” said Moore, who also chipped in five assists and two rebounds. “I don’t think our energy was there last game and that’s what we can control, every night, is our energy and how hard we play; we come out and play hard and we give ourselves a chance.”
The win improves the Bulls preseason record to 2-1 on the year, while Minnesota goes to 0-2 after falling to the Oklahoma City Thunder, 122-99, earlier in the week.
Hoiberg dressed a starting group led by center Pau Gasol, who saw his first bit of action after sitting out the first two games, and included a supporting cast of Kirk Hinrich, Jimmy Butler, Nikola Mirotic and Tony Snell.
Together they exploded out of the gate, toying with a Minnesota’s starting line-up that had both a youthful look in former No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins, mixed with some experience in 20-year pro Kevin Garnett. By the end of the first buzzer Chicago had more than doubled their opponent 34-16.
It was the second quarter Thursday that created fits for the Bulls in the loss to the Nuggets, and it was another blip again on Saturday. The T-Wolves would cut the lead to nine but a solid defensive effort to close out the half regained the Bulls double-digit lead, 65-55, at half.
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Chicago opened the half with back-to-back three-balls to regain command of the game, but things would equalize as both teams traded shots back and forth to keep the Bulls up 89-77. Minnesota threatened late in the fourth, capitalizing on some sloppy and undisciplined play from Bulls to pull within six in the final minutes.
But another three-ball, this time from Cristiano Felicio, would regain the Bulls lead by 10, and put an end to the Wolves chance of a comeback.
“It was good to win and it’s always feels good to win in this league,” said Jimmy Butler. “It’s basketball, man, it’s a game of running. There’s some things that both teams can fix so it’s back to the drawing board for both of us — that’s what preseason is for.”
The Bulls now return home to the United Center to take on the New Orleans Pelicans Monday night. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.