MINNEAPOLIS— Perhaps it was the early afternoon start, or the change in time zones from a long flight from Phoenix the day before.
Or maybe it was Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade being inactive with injuries.
Or maybe it was the last game of a long road trip and the Bulls just wanted to go home after two weeks in foreign places.
If one looks hard enough, any reason could be found for the Bulls' lifeless showing against the one team the organization didn't want to be anything but lively against, Tom Thibodeau's Minnesota Timberwolves in a 117-89 thrashing at Target Center Sunday afternoon as the Bulls finished their six-game trip with a 2-4 record.
On one hand, it probably would've been hard for the now-Sainted Thibodeau to coax something from the band of misfit toys the Bulls started, with Doug McDermott and Michael Carter-Williams taking Butler and Wade's place in the first five.
But then again, seeing more lethargy for an extended amount of time isn't going to excite anyone, as the Bulls fell behind by 26 in the first half.
Instead, it incited Fred Hoiberg, the mild-mannered coach who took three timeouts in a disastrous first 10 minutes, the last of which took place when the Bulls were down 31-12 with 2:40 left.
"Start hitting somebody. Get physical. They outhorsed us inside," Hoiberg said. "We're not very good taking the ball out of the net. We were turning the ball over, led to easy baskets. A lack of rebounding, a lack of physicality cost us early."
Young, athletic and likely highly motivated from their coach wanting to send another resounding message to his previous employer, the Wolves ran out at the Bulls from the jump—following the blueprint set forth by the Phoenix Suns.
Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins looked like they were on pogo sticks compared to the ground-bound Bulls—quick feet with quick and long hands that of course, gave the Bulls issues.
Never mind Zach LaVine, perhaps their most athletic player, is out for the season with a torn ACL.
It would've been worse, as Towns scored 22 with seven rebounds and four assists and Wiggins scored 27 with six rebounds and four assists. Ricky Rubio controlled the tempo, hitting the open men against a scrambling defense for 17 points, 11 assists and six rebounds.
"I thought the start was important," Thibodeau said. "This game we sustained our effort better, so it was good."
With four minutes left in the first half, the Bulls committed their 10th turnover and were well under 40 percent, essentially handing the Timberwolves the shovel to dig their own holes.
McDermott shot six of 15 for 16 points and Bobby Portis played 31 minutes and tied a season high with 16 points and six rebounds.
"We don’t really play to our strengths sometimes," said Taj Gibson, who only played 17 minutes. "Sometimes we rush, turn the ball over. Sometimes we gotta play to the strong suits and play a little smarter. Especially when you don't touch the ball sometimes, guys tend to do a little too much and guys get turnovers. And it happens."
And without Wade and Butler, they didn't have the horses to remotely challenge or scare a Timberwolves team that's suffered its share of growing pains this season. They exploited every mismatch and shot 64 percent in the first quarter and 57 percent for the first half.
Missed easy opportunities like 3-on-1 breaks turning into a break for other team or blowing uncontested dunks, as was the case for Cristiano Felicio in the third quarter as the usually dependable backup center missed an easy flush when the ball caromed off the rim.
If there was a bright spot, perhaps it was Portis awaking from a slumber, but it often rang hollow as the Bulls continue to search for that ever-elusive consistency that seems like a mirage at this point—only succeeding at giving their former coach more satisfaction in the form of an easygoing blowout.
"I've been around so there's a lot of those (former) teams and it's always hard when you've been through things with people so I really root for that team and those guys," Thibodeau said.
His affection was certainly on display when leaving his regulars in late to keep the score as disproportionate as possible, but to the victors go the spoils.