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The Bulls defense collapses in a blowout loss to the Timberwolves

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2022-23 Chicago Bulls“The rock bottom continues to sink.

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The last submission allowed the Minnesota Timberwolves to 150 points in regulation – who, we should note, played without their first pitches from Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert – in a 24-point defeat, extending their current losing streak to four and dropping them. Season record 11-18.

Here are 10 notes:

1. Once again, the Bulls were hit from 3-point range early in the game – and again, by a team without a solid track record in this department. A Minnesota team entering play ranked 24th in the NBA in 3-point percentage (33.4) and makes per game (10.8) Made five of its first seven attempts from that distance, finishing the first quarter 6-for-12 and the first half 12-for-21 (57.1-in) cent).

However, Bulls opponents are shooting 39.7 percent from 3-point range in the first half in games this year, 29th in the league. The Timberwolves pulled off some tough competition Sunday, but more than once, they let the ball fly against either a slack or a late defender.

2. D’Angelo Russell, who was doubtful before the game with a knee injury, was especially reckless, scoring 20 points and making six of seven 3-point attempts in the opening two quarters. The bulls lost him behind the arc several times, but he was unconscious no matter the distance, angle, or level of competition:

Russell’s scoring rush—and his passing run, which set the table for a few whooping ends around the rim—spurred Minnesota to a 39-point second quarter. Their 71 points in the first half was the most the Bulls have allowed in a half this season, and the 13th time they have allowed more than 60 points.

3. It would be easy to chalk up the Timberwolves’ flashy score for their incendiary shooting. But the truth is, the Bulls defense was porous inside and out.

The numbers show that Minnesota set season highs for an opponent of the Bulls in points (150), field goals (57) and three-pointers (23) while shooting 65.5 percent from the field, 53.5 percent from 3-point range and 88.9 percent (24 vs. 27) at the edge.

4. The eye exam was even worse. Instances of miscommunication on assist tasks during screen defense and roll were consistent. The lack of urgency and organization that goes back to the transition was recurrent. Several times in the third quarter, the Timberwolves beat the Bulls on the field after the Bulls made baskets, an unforgivable event.

It got to the point where, halfway through the third, the bulls turned into mascot territory. But the Timberwolves burned that too with tailgate cuts and more jumping. In all, Minnesota scored 118 points between the second and fourth quarters – 39 in the second, 42 in the third, and 37 in the fourth. By the final minutes of the game, they were smiling and dancing up and down the field as if they were in an empty stadium.

And the evening ended with Billy Donovan repeatedly and, later, calling his team the competitive fire.

5. For much of the evening, the bull charge was able to maintain enough pace to stay within striking distance of the whoops. By the end of the night, DeMar DeRozan (29 points), Nikola Vucevic (23) and Zach LaVine (22) all had 20 points in games. As a team, they shot 52.3 percent, made 16 three-pointers and 31 assists. But all it was was just a blank stat and another frustrating wrinkle for another double-digit defeat.

6. Plus, for whatever it is worth, the Bulls also hit 11 turnovers in this game. This is lower than the teen high/low twenties shows that have appeared in the game’s history recently. But the giveaway they committed stalled, because the Timberwolves converted 20 points from them, another nod to the Bulls’ poor transition defense.

7. In my curiosity – perhaps match-based? – Resolution, Andre Drummond scored a sound DNP on this one. Instead, Derrick Jones Jr. received backup position minutes (20 total, with Javonte Green injured).

Jones Jr. played well, scoring 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting, playing with an energetic and versatile defensive identity. And Drummond probably won’t change the lopsided score. But it’s hard not to think about how he’s impacting this game, given the Bulls’ stark struggles to protect the rim and the Timberwolves’ lack of starting strength at forward and center.

8. Back on Defense: Not only was his 150 points a season-high for Minnesota, it also set a Timberwolves franchise record. It is the fourth-most points allowed by the Bulls in regulation in franchise history (the first time it exceeded 150 points since November 1982).

9. The rest of the Timberwolves players fared like this, with Anthony Edwards scoring 37 points and 11 assists and Russell dropping 28 points and eighteen dimes. Russell’s jump shooting (7-for-10 from 3-point range) was a breaking back and Edwards’ game (7-for-10 in the paint) seemed unstoppable given the Bulls’ lack of competitiveness.

But they also had a next-man-in-the-field mentality, as Nas Reid rallied to score the game’s first 10 points and Nathan Knight contributed 16 points off the bench.

10. This game was the first of a four-game road trip for the Bulls which stops in Miami, Atlanta and New York (to face the Knicks). The loss dropped the Bulls to a dismal 4-11 on the road this season compared to 7-7 at home. Needless to say, a pivotal stretch awaits.

Next up for the Bulls: at the Miami Heat on Tuesday.

Click here to catch up on the Bulls Talk Podcast.

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