PRO BASKETBALL

Bulls find Love in the wrong place

2014-01-27T22:15:00Z 2014-01-29T14:32:12Z Bulls find Love in the wrong placeAl Hamnik al.hamnik@nwi.com, (219) 933-4154 nwitimes.com
January 27, 2014 10:15 pm  • 

CHICAGO | The venerable Palace Grill, a city landmark for years located just up the street from the United Center, has a sign on the window that reads: Sorry, We're Open.

It also typifies this Bulls season: Wracked with injuries and weakened by the trade of the fourth-leading scorer in franchise history, coach Tom Thibodeau's club has vowed to still serve fans the best it can.

Monday night, against the improved Minnesota Timberwolves, the Bulls were without emotional leader Joakim Noah (illness) and point guard Kirk Hinrich (hamstring), thereby forced once again to use another makeshift lineup.

Noah grabbed 10 or more rebounds in a career-best 16 consecutive games.

"We understand how hard we have to play, being shorthanded. We have to do that every night," Thibodeau said prior to tipoff.

Monday was not one of them as the Timberwolves led most of the way for a 95-86 win, holding the Bulls to 37.6 percent shooting.

Did they miss Noah that much in the middle, giving up a 46-36 advantage in the paint?

"They're a very good offensive team," Thibodeau said. "The start of the second quarter, they went 7-0. The end of the second quarter, we fouled three straight times in the penalty.

"At the start of the fourth quarter, they went 5-0. Mental mistakes. The fouls. That's something we normally have great discipline with our body position. That hurt us."

Minnesota (22-22) converted 22 of 26 free throws to Chicago's 14 of 16.

"It was still a winnable game," Thibodeau said.

Kevin Love (24.8 ppg., 13 rpg.) was the Bulls' biggest worry and the 6-foot-10 All-Star forward showed why with 31 points and eight rebounds.

"He can shoot the 3. He's very clever, a good passer, good screener, a great offensive rebounder," Thibodeau said.

The Timberwolves had lost 13 games by seven points or less, a red flag for Thibodeau.

"They've had some great wins. It's a make-or-miss league," Thibodeau said. "They always get great shots."

Still, the Bulls were facing a very unpredictable opponent, another red flag.

The Timberwolves had lost seven straight to Chicago and were swept in four consecutive season series.

They were second in the league in scoring (106.8) but only 1-11 on the road.

"We have to move the ball and change sides of the court and make hard cuts," Timberwolves' coach Rick Adelman said pregame. "We've got to make them struggle to defend us.

"If we hold the ball on one side of the court or get stagnant, then their defense really digs in. They have some really aggressive players."

That, of course, was before Noah was announced as a late scratch.

Carlos Boozer led Chicago (22-22) with 20 points and 14 rebounds. D.J. Augustin had 19 points and Jimmy Butler — on his bobblehead night — added 16. Taj Gibson had 10 rebounds.

"When we're healthy, you'll see a completely different team," Boozer said. "Injuries, sickness, it happens to everyone. We're not immune."

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