MINNEAPOLIS — The Bulls have found themselves in this position many times this season, and if their memory was working, going back 24 hours was enough to jog it.
In other words, grab the Mylanta.
It's a full-blown trend, as this Bulls team doesn't appear to have whatever "it" is in terms of closing games.
Whether it's mental fortitude, bad luck, bad execution or any form of adjectives you choose to select, the Bulls can't get it done, and Saturday was another painful example, as they fell to the young Minnesota Timberwolves, 112-105.
They now seem to cower in the big moments when they used to rise up in adverse circumstances. The old Bulls used to bathe in it, now they’re drowning in the dirty bath water, evidenced by allowing a 12-0 run after leading 105-100.
“The theme of this trip is finding ways to close out games,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We had a five-point lead. You’ve got to find a way to do everything you can, get stops and get the ball back.”
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But even Hoiberg has to wonder where his team’s psyche is through this 2-4 road trip, as the All-Star break is looming and Hoiberg has to keep a firm handle on ensuring the Bulls don’t mentally check out with adversity.
“You can’t think about what happened the last game. You put it behind you, you learn from it,” he said. “ We talked about it tonight, we’ll talk about it tomorrow. It’s a tough stretch. It’s gonna take a lot of mental toughness to get some momentum going before the break.”
The relative good news surrounding Jimmy Butler only lasted but for so long, as he went back to Chicago for further evaluation on his left knee. Ditto for Mike Dunleavy, who made his season debut after back surgery and played 14 minutes.
Those tend to be forgotten when you lose 11 of 16.
Derrick Rose’s two free throws marked the final time the Bulls saw the ball go through the hoop, only there was nearly three full minutes left to play.
“Yeah, this is the first time, yeah," said Rose, referring to the Bulls’ lack of rising above circumstances, considering they’d done it to varying degrees in the past few years.
Rose scored 18 with 10 assists and five rebounds but missed 14 of his 20 shots, including a few inside shots late as the Bulls came up empty on their last seven possessions offensively.
“I like the way we were playing defense earlier in the year when we were closing games because of our defense and the offense was behind. It kind of switched up where it’s the defense that we lack right now towards the end.”
But in this new day, Andrew Wiggins took over late as the athletic bigs handled things early, scoring six straight after the game was tied with two minutes remaining.
Wiggins finished with 21, while Karl-Anthony Towns scored 26 with 17 rebounds and Gorgui Dieng scored 24 with 13 rebounds and seven assists, the common denominator being athleticism and fresh legs, which the Wolves have in spades.
Bobby Portis scored 15 off 7-for-9 shooting but only grabbed three rebounds in 28 minutes.
“They controlled the glass tonight,” Hoiberg said. “Our shots weren’t (bad). Give them credit, they made tough shots.”
“You gotta keep working at it. You put the ball in your playmakers' hands, and you try to get good looks and good shots where we wanted.”
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The two young bigs nearly out-rebounded the entire Bulls team, combining for 30 rebounds to the Bulls’ 31. The Timberwolves shot 52 percent from the field and only turned it over nine times.
“Rebounds and once again miscommunication on the defensive end,” Rose said. “When we were up seven or five points, they got fast-break points from our misses. And we weren’t able to do the same because we were taking the ball out of the net."
The Bulls were supposed to have some guile and experience against the youngest team in the league, and neither team led by more than six for most of the night as the lead changed hands more times than you can count.
When Rose found E'Twaun Moore for a corner triple midway through the fourth, giving the Bulls a 99-96 lead, one would’ve thought the tide turned.
Pau Gasol could've tied the game late with a triple from the top of the key but missed, finishing with 25 and eight rebounds.
The All-Star break can't get here quick enough, but the reality check has just arrived at the table.