I liked that win.
It wasn't the prettiest basketball we've seen this year--that's never going to happen against the Bulls. But the Wolves never trailed after tying the game at 2-2 in the first minute, and ground out a win almost entirely without starting center Nikola Pekovic, who left the game in the first quarter with a sore right achilles tendon and did not return.
In his absence, Ronny Turiaf played a fantastic game, posting 14 points and seven rebounds on 6-7 shooting, and providing his trademark energy across 32 minutes of playing time. It certainly helped that the Bulls were also without their starting center, Joakim Noah, but it was an excellent performance by Turiaf at a much needed time.
This marked the Wolves 3rd game in four nights, all on the road, and the Wolves managed wins in Golden State and Chicago during the stretch. That's impressive, given that they have so often succumbed to difficult scheduling this season. This was a big game to get them back to .500 with two winnable, if difficult, home games coming up this week against the Pelicans and Grizzlies.
In addition to Turiaf, Chase Budinger also had a big game off the bench, scoring 12 points on 5-7 from the field, including makes on both his three point attempts. Budinger making shots is a sight for sore Wolves fans eyes, as he's been struggling badly since returning from injury a couple of weeks ago.
Two key stretches were headlined by the Wolves bench: the first half of the 2nd quarter, when they were able to push out to a ten point lead behind a couple of Budinger threes and a couple of Turiaf baskets, and the start of the fourth quarter, when they got the lead up to 12 with a Corey Brewer three sandwiched by a two Budinger baskets. The Bulls never got closer than five points after that, and Wolves were able to close it out at the free throw line.
Kevin Love was his all-star self, scoring 31 on 17 shots from the field, and making some big plays including a tough move underneath followed by two free throws to stifle the Bulls final run when they got within five.
Overall it was a good win in which the Wolves maintained their execution throughout, and won a game in a tough environment at the end of a road trip that took them to the West Coast and back to the Midwest. It wasn't their usual combination: instead tonight they outshot their opponent, holding the Bulls under 40%. Thus despite getting outrebounded, they controlled the game throughout and got a solid win.
They get to go home now with an opportunity to begin their assault on a playoff position. We hope.