A close game throughout the second half, the Chicago Bulls earned a hard-fought 111-100 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves Tuesday night at Target Center. The Bulls, who were playing on the second day of their three-games-in-three-nights stretch, improved to 9-2.
The Bulls placed four players in double figures. Derrick Rose had arguably his best performance of the season, dropping a season-high 31 points, 11 assists, three rebounds and two blocks while shooting 12-for-22 from the field and 4-for-8 from three-point range in almost 42 minutes. The Wolves had no answer for Rose all night -- but were able to contain the reigning NBA MVP in the middle quarters, when Rose appeared to be hampered by a left ankle injury he suffered late in the first quarter. Rose dropped to the floor to grab a loose ball and Wolves forward Anthony Tolliver toppled on his left foot. Athletic trainer Fred Tedsechi escorted the 6-foot-3 point guard to the locker room between quarters and Rose returned to the bench shortly thereafter.
Rose told reporters after the game that he tweaked a turf toe injury that has bothered him at times since his sophomore campaign. He added he will play through it and that he's "fine," which should come as no surprise to Bulls fans.
Luol Deng, coming off a four-point outing in Monday night's win over the Detroit Pistons, had a big bounce-back performance, posting 21 points and 11 rebounds. He hit 9-of-17 from the field and knocked down several clutch baskets when the Wolves were making their rallies. Starting again for the injured Rip Hamilton, Ronnie Brewer poured in 17 points on 5-for-10 shooting, including a three-pointer that helped put the finishing touches on the win, while Kyle Korver continued his hot shooting and scored 13 points and went 3-of-3 from beyond the arc.
Although Joakim Noah had only four points and did not attempt a single field-goal on Monday, the 6-foot-11 center was clearly much more active. He took another step forward Tuesday night, scoring eight points on 3-for-5 shooting and grabbing 11 rebounds. Even so, he committed four turnovers and still couldn't find the type of rhythm on offense that Bulls fans expect.
Meanwhile, fellow front-court starter Carlos Boozer followed up a 23-point game with a meager seven points while missing 7-of-10 shots. Unlike Monday night, the 6-foot-9 forward wasn't able to find the touch on his mid-range jumper, and was carved up on the other end most of the evening by either Kevin Love (20 points, 13 rebounds) or Anthony Randolph (18 points). Boozer and Noah were both benched -- again -- in the fourth quarter, which has happened multiple times early this season, although the Wolves played lots of small ball in the second half.
The Bulls led 33-18 after one quarter of play, shooting a blistering 14-for-19 from the field. However, the Wolves finished the second quarter on a 20-2 run to cut the Bulls' lead to 53-47 at halftime, largely thanks to numerous defensive breakdowns that certainly did not please coach Tom Thibodeau and a stellar floor game from rookie point guard Ricky Rubio -- who impressively put up 12 points and 13 assists. Rick Adelman's Wolves carried that momentum into the third quarter and trailed by just five through three stanzas.
But the Bulls were able to get defensive stops when they needed them, with Taj Gibson making three fourth-quarter blocks. Rose saved his best for the start and finish, scoring 14 points apiece in the opening and final frame. Whenever the Bulls needed a big basket, a big play, he was, as usual, the man for the job. His ninth assist came on a beautiful dish to Omer Asik (six points, six rebounds) -- who has displayed a lot more confidence in his offensive moves recently, even scoring on a right-handed hook shot Tuesday -- for a layup.
Next up, the Bulls are back at it Wednesday night when they close out their lone back-to-back-to-back set of the compressed season against the Washington Wizards (1-8) at the United Center.