Bulls once again can't finish, fall to young Timberwolves


Bulls once again can't finish, fall to young Timberwolves

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.”

[MORE BULLS: Watch a replay of Bulls-Timberwolves]

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.

[MORE BULLS: Bulls breathe sigh of relief with Jimmy Butler's knee strain]

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.”

[SHOP BULLS: Get your Bulls gear right here]

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.

Who's paying?

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night


Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski sits down with Kendall Gill and Will Perdue to discuss all the need-to-know topics to get you ready for the season opener. The guys analyze how Lauri’s injury will make its mark on the early season rotation, whether Jabari will return to the starting unit or embrace the 6th-man role and why Portis betting on himself is the right move. Plus, Kendall has the key to unlock a “6th Man of the Year” award for Portis this season.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

It's been a whirlwind of a summer for point guard Tyler Ulis, but he finally feels like he's found a home. Literally.

The 5-foot-9 point guard was cut by the Suns in late June, latched on with a training camp invite by the Warriors and was subsequently waived on Friday. It was then that Ulis, working out in California, received a call from his agent. He had been claimed on waivers by the Chicago Bulls. His hometown Bulls.

"I grew up watching (the Bulls)," he said after his first practice on Tuesday. "Growing up in this city, you always want to be a Bull and you’re always willing and hoping that you’ll be here one day...I'm home now. It's a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to it."

Ulis is back in Chicago for the first time since he was breaking records for Marian Catholic High School. Ulis became a five-star recruit for the Spartans and in 2014 signed on as the next point guard in the long line of successful floor generals under John Calipari and Kentucky.

Ulis backed up the Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron, as a freshman but saw his role increase as a sophomore. He blossomed, earning Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the SEC. Only Anthony Davis had ever earned both honors in a single season.

He declared for the 2016 NBA Draft with hopes of becoming a first-round pick. But unlike the Calipari point guards before him, Ulis slipped all the way down to the second round before the Phoenix Suns scooped him up with the 34th pick.

"Honestly I really did think (the Bulls) were going to draft me," Ulis said on Tuesday when recalling the 2016 NBA Draft. The Bulls took Denzel Valentine with the 14th pick. "But I'm here now so that's all that matters."

In 132 games, Ulis averaged 7.6 points and 4.1 assists in 21.1 minutes. He started 58 of those games, and while his shooting left plenty to be desired he handled the offense well and brought that same pesky defense he showed off at Kentucky. It wasn't enough, even for the guard-deprived Suns. They released Ulis before free agency this summer - which ruffled the feathers of franchise guard Devin Booker - in a rather unexpected move.

"My Mom always taught me (to) never expect anything," Ulis said of his release from the Suns. "When you're on a losing team like that anything can happen. I feel like I showed I could play at this level but they went a different way."

The Suns' loss - they may resort to starting 38-year-old Jamal Crawford at point guard this year - could be the Bulls' gain. Expectations should be harnessed for Ulis, especially with him joining the roster this late in the preseason, but the Bulls, like Phoenix, have question marks at the point.

Kris Dunn is entrenched as the starter, but Cameron Payne struggled mightily in the preseason and Ryan Arcidiacono doesn't project as a contributor. That leaves an opening for Ulis to potentially fill on the second unit, and apparently he's making a statement early in practice.

"Tyler had a real good practice," Fred Hoiberg said. "I think I think he changes the pace when he’s out there on the floor. He picks up full-court, he gets up underneath you. He can make a shot. He’s got good vision and can make a play with the ball in his hand. So I was very impressed with his first workout."

Ulis is working on a 45-day two-way contract, so it's unknown how much he'll contribute. He could be shuttled back and forth between Chicago and the Windy City Bulls, but there's certainly an opportunity for him to stick. He'll be playing catch-up and learning on the go, but doing so in his hometown wth friends and family around him for support will work to his advantage.

"Being a smaller guard growing up in a big man’s sport, you get looked over. So I’m the underdog," he said. "And I feel like this team is an underdog, so we should all be excited to get the season started and prove people wrong."