Shorthanded Bulls thumped by Wolves to end road trip

Shorthanded Bulls thumped by Wolves to end road trip

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.

[MORE: Dwyane Wade sends out support for Charles Oakley]

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.

2020 NBA Draft Lottery going virtual, breaking two-year host run for Chicago

2020 NBA Draft Lottery going virtual, breaking two-year host run for Chicago

It’s felt pre-ordained for months now. Now, it appears it’s decided.

No, the Bulls didn’t draw the seventh pick in the 2020 NBA Draft (yet). But The Athletic’s Shams Charania did report Monday afternoon that the lottery scheduled for Aug. 20 will take place virtually. All 14 teams ‘in attendance’ will be allowed to ‘send’ remote representatives. The event will presumably be televised, but details haven’t emerged on that front yet.

It’s a logical gameplan given the COVID-19 pandemic’s ongoing nature, and the acclaim received by virtual draft showcases broadcast by the WNBA and NFL while live sports in the United States were effectively paused.

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The news also sends a few ripples in Bulls world. For one, who will rep the team, in this, its third consecutive lottery appearance? Michael Reinsdorf and Horace Grant manned the post in 2018 and 2019, respectively. But for this year? Benny the Bull would be sure to bring the energy. On the heels of the summer of “The Last Dance,” perhaps a dynasty-era contributor could get the call. Or maybe a newly-minted front office face instead? Time will tell.

And, as our K.C. Johnson pointed out on Twitter, this development also marks the end of a two-year streak of Chicago hosting the lottery in 2018 and 2019. The city has long housed the combine.

Here’s what Adam Silver told NBC Sports Chicago in February when asked his impressions of Chicago as a host-city for the lottery:

We have been very pleased in Chicago. Our community comes together in Chicago for our predraft camp and combine. It made perfect sense to also conduct the draft lottery there. And that was something that Mayor Emanuel never stopped reminding me of. Things can potentially change over time. We are enjoying being in Chicago. Because of the geographic location, it’s more convenient for our teams to be in a more central location. And Chicago, for the same reasons that makes it a fantastic All-Star host, has all the accommodations you need for our teams when they come together for our combine. My anticipation is we’ll be in Chicago for a while. And the city has been terrific to work with.

Silver made that comment before All-Star weekend in Chicago, but all of the above virtues translated. Though Bulls representation was limited, no one would deny Chicago played a splendid host for the festivities.

The Bulls enter this year’s lottery locked into the seventh-best odds (7.5%) at nabbing the No. 1 pick, and a 32% chance of vaulting into the top four. 

Slots No. 1 through No. 8 in the lottery standings are set with the teams excluded from the NBA’s restart. Slots No. 9 through 14 will populate at the end of the play-in round, when postseason seeding is officially set. Teams that started the restart as a top-eight seed in either conference can fall into the lottery if they miss the playoffs, but the ultimate order of the lottery odds will be decided by pre-hiatus record (meaning, for example, that if the current standings hold and the Phoenix Suns finish with a better record than the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings, but miss the postseason, the Suns would own better lottery odds than the Pels and Kings by virtues of each team’s pre-hiatus record).

All of which is to say, clear your calendars for next Thursday. After that, rumor and speculation are sure to swirl until the draft itself, which, as of right now, is reportedly scheduled for Oct. 16. The status of the combine remains up in the air, though ESPN’s Jonathan Givony reported July 23 that the league is polling teams on which players should be invited to the combine if one takes place.

For the Bulls, helmed by a new front office regime and facing a moment of reckoning in the current rebuild, this year’s draft process is an especially crucial one.


Bulls' Top 10 Centers in franchise history

Bulls' Top 10 Centers in franchise history

NBC Sports Chicago is counting down the top 10 Bulls at each position in franchise history.

We've hit the point guards, shooting guards, small forwards and power forwards. And last, but certainly not least, the men in the middle. The centers.

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Defensive anchors, multi-skilled hubs and blue-collar tenacity abound in these rankings. And plenty of hardware — both of the championship and individual variety.

We hope you've enjoyed this trip down memory lane. Without further adieu...

Bulls' Top 10 Centers in franchise history