Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
The Chicago Bulls lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves 114-105 Thursday night at the United Center in their last preseason game.
Here are 10 observations from the defeat:
—Zach LaVine sat with an illness and Andre Drummond missed the contest for personal reasons. LaVine’s absence robbed coach Billy Donovan the opportunity to play the regular rotational minutes that he had planned for his starters. In fact, LaVine, who appeared in three of the five preseason games, never logged fourth-quarter minutes. But Donovan didn’t think the illness would be a long-term affair. And LaVine played well in his limited action, especially in attacking the rim. He shot 13-for-17 (76.5 percent) and averaged 17 points in 23.7 minutes. “It would’ve been nice to have a full complement of guys to move pieces around,” Donovan said. “But it’s not going to be that way so other guys will get some opportunity too.”
—One of those guys was Alex Caruso, who returned after missing two games with a minor right ankle injury. Caruso said he could’ve played either game if it had landed in the regular season and is enjoying the defensive chemistry he’s forming with Torrey Craig and Jevon Carter in the second unit. In fact, Donovan started Ayo Dosunmu for LaVine in a clear attempt to keep that trio together in the second unit. Caruso finished with seven points and four assists in 18 minutes.
—During a first-quarter, 10-1 run, the Bulls looked as good as they have all preseason offensively. Patrick Williams soared for an emphatic baseline dunk. DeMar DeRozan passed up a good look on a 3-pointer to feed Nikola Vucevic for a better one. In general, the Bulls were more committed to increasing their 3-point attempts. They took 10 in the first quarter alone. That’s the good news. The bad news is they only made two, including Williams missing all five.
—Donovan used Williams and DeRozan as the starters to stagger with the second unit. The Timberwolves have been good offensively all preseason and feasted on the smaller unit that featured Craig as a small-ball center. Andre Drummond missed the game for personal reasons. The Timberwolves outscored the Bulls’ second unit 16-9 in close to a 6-minute stretch spanning the first and second quarters. This was despite playing without Karl Anthony-Towns, who sat for precautionary reasons. Minnesota still features plenty of size with Rudy Gobert and Naz Reid.
—The second unit fared better in its following stints. Carter and Caruso routinely picked up fullcourt, often at the same time, and you can see how much havoc they have the potential to cause. Especially when Dosunmu plays with Caruso, Craig and Carter.
—DeRozan didn’t score until the second quarter and then scored nine straight points on two traditional three-point plays and a 3-pointer off Craig’s assist. DeRozan has largely been quiet offensively during the preseason. But he exploited this stretch where the Timberwolves largely played zone. He finished with 11 points in 30 minutes.
—Williams, who was pulled early from the last game and challenged by Donovan, tried to dunk over Rudy Gobert in the final minute of the first half. That’s one way to answer questions about aggressiveness. Williams drew a foul on the play and sank both free throws. Williams entered having attempted four free throws through the first four preseason games. He shot 4-for-4 from the line against Minnesota. He didn’t fare as well from the field, finishing 3-for-12, including 0-7 from 3-point range.
“He shot the ball really poorly and everyone still felt his presence in the game,” Donovan said. “He made some great passes. He got to the glass. He rebounded. I give him credit.”
Donovan even joked that it was good to see Williams cramp up late in the game because he exerted so much energy.
—The Timberwolves didn’t play Anthony Edwards or Gobert in the second half. Edwards scored 19 in just 20 first-half minutes, continuing his ascension as a star. The Bulls took turns defending Edwards, sending multiple bodies against him. He shot 8-for-13, running defenders off multiple screens.
—Vucevic posted his second straight 20-point, 10-rebound double-double and appeared in the fourth quarter for the first time this preseason. The Bulls opened the fourth with four starters and Carter against the back end of the Timberwolves’ roster. They didn’t take advantage, playing them even in a 4-minute stretch.
—The Bulls took over 30 3-pointers for only the second time in regulation during the five preseason games. (They took 38 in the double-overtime victory over the Nuggets but attempted only 29 in regulation.) They had shot well in low volume but flipped the script this time, taking more but shooting a poor percentage.