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Bulls 133, Timberwolves 126: Only Bulls & Wolves in OT, No KATs

The Wolves scratch their way to overtime, but go to 0-2 in the Finch era.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Karl-Anthony Towns said earlier this season, “Rome wasn’t build in one day.

Well, today was technically day 2.

I guess it’s day 3 if you’re including his very first day on the job, but you get it. You’re smarter than me. It’s been clear that the offense has been humming with Head Coach Chris Finch at the helm. The Wolves are averaging 115.5 points in regulation thus far and (re)incorporating KAT as the primary option has unsurprisingly been the reason why. Of course the defense was going to be lacking, but this was more what we expected to see when Gersson Rosas first assembled this iteration of the Timberwolves.

So what happens when you take KAT out of the game?

What happens when you take the head away from a chicken? When you take the legs away from a chicken. The heart away from a chicken (I really didn’t have to get this deep with the chicken mutilation here, yikes). You get the offensive nightmare that was the our 20-ish games without him. As Coach Finch mentioned in the postgame presser, it was clearly deflating to see our team collapse without him. If he didn’t pick up 3 relatively early first half fouls and was on the court for overtime, I’m absolutely certain we would’ve throttled the Bulls. He was a team, and game, high +12 in a 7-point loss.

Coach Finch, nor KAT, believe that his apparent screening problems are real. Whether or not that’s the case, I have to continue to bang the “KAT’s so mature and hardly complains about fouls now” drum. He gave a long, well-thought out answer that I did my best to briefly transcribe:

It’s easy to say this, and as KAT has continually said, it’ll be more about action than talk. I think the biggest development this season has been the growth of KAT and from what we’ve seen and heard this far, I think it’s a rousing success. I’m so proud of this cat, for real.

As for the game?

The game looked promising after the tip. Just like our very own Mike O’Hagen mentioned in his game preview, Anthony Edwards attacked the paint without a threatening rim protector to deal with. The Wolves would get out to a quick 7-0 start, but it would be short-lived. Former Wolves legends Zach LaVine and Thaddeus Young scored half the Bulls points (16) in the 1st quarter which would be foreshadowing of the onslaught that was to come. LaVine in particular would continue terrorizing Minnesota to the tune of 35 total points.

Regardless, there was not much defense being played by either team. In just the 1st quarter, the Wolves would give up 32 points on 70% (!) shooting while putting up 34 points of their own on 59.1% shooting. This trend would only continue for the Bulls though, as a bench unit of JMac/Nowell/Okogie/Big Mac/Naz really hamstrung the Wolves for the rest of the game. Clearly still trying to figure out roles, they would give up a 12-2 scoring run which was ended by Billy Donovan, who called a timeout because he felt bad for the Wolves. What a nice guy!

The Wolves would respond by reinserting some of their starters, sparking a 6-0 run capped by an uncharacteristic LaVine technical due to an obviously blown call by the stripes.

On one end of the court, the Wolves seemed to have a ton of 1-and-dones, jacking up 3s like they knew they weren’t on pace to outdo the record they set yesterday. On the other end, Wolves seemed to staple up a sign on the stanchion that said “FREE PAINT BUCKETS, PLEASE TAKE AND-1.” With mediocre paint protector, Towns, out of the game, the Bulls astutely attacked poor paint protector, Naz Reid over and over again to much success. The Bulls lead ballooned up to 68-58 going into the half while still shooting over 60% (40 PIP) while the Wolves simmered down to 48.9%.

The Wolves would finally wake up in the second half. Both KAT and Malik would heat up to get the game competitive again. Most notably, Jarred Vanderbilt would continue his effective play from the first half. He was a pest on the boards while making all the small plays to help keep the Wolves in it.

Wolves got as close as 1 multiple times (3) in the final period, but just could not finish the job to truly get back ahead. A missed an open layup. A missed an open jumpshot. An untimely turnover. An untimely defensive breakdown. Despite all of this, the Bulls would still leave the door ajar for the Wolves to walk through. Ant would hit a Sam Cassell big-cajones 3 to pull the Wolves to just 1 with less than a minute left.

This time, the Wolves did not allow LaVine to beat them by throwing an early double at him, challenging Wendall Carter Jr. to shoot a wide open corner 3. Miss, timeout, and then a play drawn up for Towns at the left elbow. Staring down Carter Jr., Towns would get a good look at a 14-footer which would barely rim out. If that wasn’t the game, then him accidentally fouling out on the next play to push the deficit to 3 with 9.8 remaining should’ve been.

If I could’ve prayed for anyone to make a play to tie the game, who do you think it’d be?

Overtime would go just how you would go you would expect it would go without KAT. The Wolves immediately gave up 7 unanswered points and the game would never really be contested again. The offense was utterly anemic while the defense was left aimlessly scrambling around, looking tired during extra time at the tail end of a back-toback. Ant would keep the game score looking somewhat respectable with 5 points during the added time, but that was about all Minnesota got.

So as mentioned in the start of this recap, although the offense appears to be truly effective, the defense is still the obvious issue. Either Dame is right, or David Vanterpool is no good, or the players just cannot execute. It’s one of those 3, but likely a mix of them all.

We’ll see if things budge as the Wolves finally get a much needed 2-day break. It’ll be their first since January 16. Whew.

Full game highlights

Game notes

  • JC did not rise tonight. Prior to the game, Chris Finch had mentioned that he would get 15 minutes of action, but there must have been an apparent setback during shootaround as he would be seen on the bench with warmups on. Hopefully Jarrett Culver will be back Saturday against the Wizards.
  • Vando was absolutely awesome today. It looked like he hurt his right hand/arm while trying to chase down a Coby White layup in OT, but fortunately he said he’s fine. V8, a nickname that Jim Pete brought up in the broadcast, had a number of classic hustle plays tonight. He finished with 16 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, and 4 steals. Most importantly, he shot 6/7 from the charity tripe.
  • Ant started hot, disappeared, then reemerged late in the game tonight. If we can get this type of all-around production from both him and the continued hot shooting of Malik Beasley moving forward, then we will win many more games. Edwards finished with 21 points (3 threes), 9 rebounds (career high), 6 assists (career high), and 2 steals. Beasley finished with 25 points (5 threes).
  • Jaden McDaniels, who had an up-and-down performance tonight, only got 16 minutes of court time. However only 5 of them game in the second half and < 1 in overtime. Obviously V8 playing well probably had to do with it tonight, but I asked Coach Finch about it in the postgame presser:
  • Bulls MPE goes to Tomas Satoransky, who had a variety of timely buckets for Chicago all night. As JPete mentioned in the broadcast, he too was starting to really irritate me. He finished with 16 points, 5 points, 4 assists, all on 85.7% shooting.
  • I’m happy to see Zach LaVine dominate offensively in such a consistent fashion. He’s truly one of the good guys of the league and I’m happy he’s finally got that all-star recognition he deserves. I still had some PTSD flashbacks of point-LaVine in this game, as he dribbled off his leg a few times and threw some passes that were wide by multiple feet (7 total TOs). I’ll still never forget the story about when Zach was still on the Wolves and there was a particular game where Ricky was hearing it from his own home crowd in Minnesota. The story goes that as the crowd boo’d Ricky, Zach looked at one of the boo’ers and yelled “Shut the f*ck up” at them. Classic.
  • Did I embed enough of my own tweets?