The Chicago Bulls lost, but I’m going to both give them blame and a Mulligan.
When a player of Nikola Pekovic’s caliber leaves the game (Pekovic is an above-average post player, but not the greatest defensive player. If anything, Pekovic’s injury made Minnesota a bit more athletic, but worse nonetheless.), you need to capitalize on that. Removing Pekovic from the Timberwolves rotation removes one low-post scorer from the defensive scheme, and shortens Minnesota’s amount of big men to deal with. After Pekovic’s injury, the Wolves were left with Kevin Love, Ronny Turiaf, and a trio of Luc Richard Mbah A Moute, Gorgui Dieng, and Dante Cunningham to plug the hole. You have to capitalize on that. With all of that being said, the Bulls were without Joakim Noah, and his value is understated on numerous levels for this Bulls team.
A couple notes…
– Ronny Turiaf didn’t become a looter in a riot with the Pekovic injury, but he certainly was the beneficiary of Chicago’s extra attention on Kevin Love. In 32 minutes, Turiaf finishes with 14 points on 6-7 shooting and 7 rebounds. This was important for two reasons. The first was it gave Minnesota a respectable Pekovic replacement for the night, allowing Minnesota’s starters to continue to produce at a normal rate. The second is he, combined with Chase Budinger’s 12 points, gave Minnesota’s bench 21 of the team’s 34 bench points for the night. The Wolves were one of the worse teams in the league in producing bench scoring, and when you allow 34 points, odds are, you’re going to lose.
– The rebounding battle was about even between the teams with Chicago grabbing 42, while Minnesota finished with 40. Minnesota was without Nikola Pekovic for most of the game with an injury, while Joakim Noah registered a DNP with an illness. Taj Gibson and Carlos Boozer did an excellent job attacking the boards, while keeping Love off of them for the most part (Love finished with eight total rebounds, and zero offensive rebounds), but allowing both Kevin Martin and Ricky Rubio to nab six rebounds apiece.
– Woof. The Bulls offense STINKS without Joakim Noah, and that was on full display. The Bulls are a poor offense with Noah, but his ability to move the all and create an offensive flow was lacking, and it resulted in Chicago shooting 37.6% from the field. D.J. Augustin isn’t a creating point guard, but when Noah is working with him, he can be effective in spots. Without Noah, it was quite sad watching Augustin run the offense as he simply missed entry passes, didn’t find the open man, and missed a couple cutters early. Along with the poor shooting, Chicago finished with 20 assists and 13 turnovers, which is rather worrisome for an already poor offense.
– Kevin Love didn’t dominate the glass at a normal rate, but he was unstoppable at times, finishing with 31 points on 8-17 shooting, with 14-14 from the free throw line. Consider this, Love was 1-7 from three, meaning he finished seven of his ten field goals when he stepped inside the three-point line. The Bulls sent Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson at him, and he was unstoppable, working both and garnering any and every call. For Minnesota’s disappointing play, Love continues to prove that he’s one of the reasons why Minnesota is winning.