Bulls-Timberwolves Film Room: A Game of Missed Opportunities


Saturday night was more than just about the Chicago Bulls not scoring a single point in an overtime period against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Bulls had a plethora of missed chances down the stretch to pick up a grind-it-out win at home and didn’t execute down the stretch.

With 5:55 left in the fourth quarter on Saturday night, the Chicago Bulls led the Minnesota Timberwolves, 89-84. From that point on, the Bulls scored four points on 1-of-10 shooting before the game went into overtime.

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The next five minutes were well-documented, as the Bulls failed to score in overtime for the first time in the franchise’s history. This season has brought a different Minnesota roster to the forefront, but for a team that’s supposed to be a part of the league’s elite-tier teams, scoring four points in a 11:55 stretch in the late part of a game isn’t going to get it done.

There’s no one thing you can point out that led to the demise of the Bulls on Saturday. Their execution offensively was poor, their effort on missed shots defensively was just as bad, and they simply got outworked in the latter parts of the contest.

“I just don’t understand how you can play with as much energy as we did two nights ago and then just to expect to show up and win the game,” Bulls head coach Hoiberg said on Saturday.

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“It’s tough to even fathom how that can happen. You get 82 opportunities to put your uniform on and go out and get up for the game and play for your teammates and do everything you can to win and we didn’t do that.”

It’s been that kind of year for the Bulls. On one night this past week, they gave up 130 points to a Charlotte team that was dead-last shooting the three last season and 28th in points scored per game.

Two nights later, they defeated Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Who is this team and what’s their identity? Nobody knows.

When you dive in and take a look at the Bulls from Saturday, there’s a few things that stuck out late in the game. Here’s a few breakdowns on Saturday’s loss.

You can see the score bug. There’s 4:53 left in the game and the Bulls just got a rebound from Tony Snell off an Andrew Wiggins miss on one end. The Bulls have numbers with a 3-on-2 fast break with the ageless Tayshaun Prince and Wiggins back for Minnesota.

So, why is Jimmy Butler slowing down the break and pulling this ball to the wing for a half-court set that leads to the Bulls missing a shot? You’re up five and points are at a minimum in this game at this point. If Butler pushes this ball down the middle, Prince and/or Wiggins will have to collapse on him to scoring an easy bucket. He’s probably going to have Tony Snell — who made four of his six three-point attempts on Saturday — open on the left wing for another attempt from deep.

File this one under a missed opportunity to push the lead out late.

A couple possessions later, the Bulls were still up five approaching the four-minute mark in the fourth quarter. Derrick Rose did exactly what he had to do on this play. Rose put the ball on the deck and drove hard at Ricky Rubio towards the rim.

Once again, the Bulls missed an opportunity to push the lead out to seven when Rose missed this left-handed layup at the tin. After this miss, Minnesota would score on a Karl-Anthony Towns make with 3:52 left to cut the lead to three, followed by a Pau Gasol turnover on the next Bulls possession.

Even when Rose is making “the right play”, the execution was poor. This is a shot Rose has made hundreds of times, and late in a ballgame, this has to be either a trip to the line or a made field goal.

On this miss by Pau Gasol at the nail with 2:36 left, Rose once again makes a nice play and drives towards the basket. Towns helps Rubio on the drive, which leaves Gasol wide open for his standard mid-range jumper.

You’re not going to shoot 100 percent from this range all season long, but for a guy like Gasol — whose offensive game is strongly based on the mid-range jump shot — this has to be a make with 2:36 left in a three-point game. Gasol is a liability defensively, so when he gets chances to score offensively, he has to produce.

This is going to seem quite nit-picky, but this was the final possession for the Bulls in regulation. Pau Gasol saves the day once again with a late-game tip-in, but the gripe here is with the struggling Nikola Mirotic.

Mirotic gets the inbound pass and attacks Nemanja Bjelica on the drive with a good spin move, but his layup attempt was more about getting the whistle than making the shot. Some officials will give Mirotic the benefit of the doubt here, but when you’re down two in the final 25 seconds of a game, you cannot leave the result in the officiating’s hands.

With this layup attempt, that’s exactly what Mirotic was doing. Gasol just bailed him out on the offensive glass.

OT Notes:

When Ricky Rubio(!) doesn’t even respect your outside shot, who will?

Jimmy Butler missed a couple rebounding chances late in this game and Minnesota capitalize on them. (Related: Karl-Anthony Towns is going to be so, so good in this league.)

Read the latter sentence from the previous clip again. (Great breakdown of Rubio at the top by Rose. Towns is just a teenage freak.)

The caption of this was, “That kind of night.”


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Butler was a half-second too late on a pass he usually jumps on and runs the floor for an easy dunk and Rose lost the ball out of bounds inside the final two minutes of overtime.