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Wolves 111, Bulls 96: Back to KAT

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KAT was marvelous with 36 points, 22 rebounds and six assists.

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Minnesota Timberwolves Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — Zach LaVine made another return to Target Center as a member of the opposite team and everyone was all smiles before the game. He chatted with Tyus Jones, KAT and Wiggins; shared hugs with owner Glen Taylor and his wife, Becky Mulvihill.

The crowd gave him a hefty roar when he was announced in the starting lineups. He left an impression on Minnesota not just with his thunderous dunks, but from his work in the community as well. Everyone loves Zach.

Fans still malign the Butler trade for trading him away instead of another piece, say Andrew Wiggins, but what’s done is done. Unfortunately tonight’s game piled up more evidence that those who hold that view are right, despite getting a win against an atrocious Bulls squad. LaVine finished with 28 points, eight rebounds and four assists.

Wiggins had the worst game of his career tonight, scoring zero points (0-12 shooting) for the first time ever, while only adding a rebound and an assist. Zero free throw attempts. Zero minutes in the fourth. A big, fat goose egg of a game.

For me in particular, it was really hard to watch. I wouldn’t say I am a Wiggins defender but I am a staunch Wiggins supporter. Just like any other fan (I would hope), I want to see Andrew perform at a high level, a level you expect from a max-contract player.

With Jimmy Butler gone, there’s no more excuses about being out of position or a better player taking up possessions. Tonight, like other nights, he was just out of it. This when a case study of how you can play, even when you falter on offense, was happening right before his eyes.

Robert Covington was 1-18 from the field, scored a total of four points, but was the Wolves best defender by far. He had three steals, three blocks and six rebounds, wreaking havoc on the defensive end for the young Bulls.

“When one thing is not going well, you’ve got to wrap it up on the other end. That’s what I built my reputation on, becoming a two-way player and becoming very versatile,” Covington said after the game.

If only the same could be said of Wiggins.

Gratefully, the Wolves have another max player in Karl-Anthony Towns that carried this team, especially in the second half. While he racked up a double-double in the first half, KAT finished the game with 35 points, 22 rebounds and six assists. An unstoppable force.

He was timid early on but he eventually figured out how to attack Chicago; move away from the basket against Robin Lopez, attack the paint against Wendell Carter, Jr. or anyone else they decided to throw at him.

The young Duke grad, Carter Jr., tried with all his might to stifle KAT, coming up with a couple steals in the first half. Eventually he was overpowered by the longer Kentucky grad.

Plus Towns can do stuff like this:

I waited a long time for Karl to come speak to me (well, the media, but that INCLUDES me) and he never showed. I’m hurt sniffle.

I just wanted to ask what it’s like to have to foul yourself out to get some rest. With the game in hand, Thibs stuck with KAT, Covington and the reserves who played most of the fourth, until the end. That was until both Bob Cov and KAT fouled out so he had to remove them from the game.

Josh Okogie played the one minute sacrificed to him by Covington, who was looking towards the bench much earlier than his final foul, laughing while asking for a sub. I’d like to note the crowd still went nuts for Okogie as he came in and the fact a coach cannot understand what everyone else does blows my mind. PLAY THE MAN.

“They were just playing well. They went on a run and we got to that sixth minute mark, you gotta make your decision there if you bring people back or ride it out. It just seems we had a good rhythm, the defense was really good, and so we rode it out. You have to put the team first and I think we have a number guys that are willing to sacrifice for the team so that’s what were asking everyone to do,” Thibs said after the game, when asked by the Athletic’s Britt Robson on why he rode those guys out.

My eyes rolled out of my head listening to that again.

First of all, you can’t make any decisions on the roster other than the six-minute mark? What?

Second of all, this is definitely not a team first strategy when up 17 points on the worst team in the league!

Third, none of this is surprising.

What continues to surprise me is the Derrick Rose resurgence. He had another great game with 22 points on 9-13 shooting, 2-4 from deep. On a veteran minimum contract, he is literally the best player in the league, dollar for dollar. I am stunned, flabbergasted!

His chaotic play used to make me cringe but now it has this weird soothing quality. I just know it’s going to work.

I can’t believe he’s back to this level, though he’s just 30 years old, since he has had three straight years of injuries and bad play. He’s averaging 19.4 points and 4.6 assists in about 30 minutes per game on the year.

When asked about his relationship with Coach Thibodeau, this is what Rose had to say:

“He gave me a chance. That’s all I needed was one more chance. He did that. If anything we communicate more than we did in the past and he’s honest. When I came in, he said he was going to try and find minutes for me, not like he was going to give me minutes. When I came in towards the end of last year, he said he was going to try and find minutes for me and I was playing the three guard then and now coming in now, depending on who’s starting or who’s injured or what’s going on, whatever the scenario is I just have to be ready.”

I have to give credit to Thibs who not only gave Rose a chance, but seems to be right when saying all he needed was to be healthy. He has been a bright spot, in terms of basketball, for this team so far.

As I wrap this up, here is my new, STRONG OPINION.

Dario Saric should be the NEW STARTING POWER FORWARD OF THE MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES.

He, as well as Towns, grabbed NINE OFFENSIVE REBOUNDS. He had a total of 14 rebounds to go along with 19 points. HE’S AMAZING.

I can’t overstate this.

His hustle and adeptness to find open lanes, whether to score or rebound in, can be game changing. I mean, look at this!

Sure, it’s garbage time, and it’s the Bulls, but how about this!

Start Saric. This has been my new, STRONG OPINION.

BONUS DARIO INTERVIEW FROM THE POST GAME:

It’s now back to back wins, as the Wolves go back to KAT to get the job done.

Oh, and what everyone really wanted: