Submitted by National Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
The Chicago Bulls lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves 114-105 on Thursday night at the United Center in their final preseason game.
Here are 10 takeaways from the defeat:
— Zach LaVine sat out with an illness and Andre Drummond missed the contest for personal reasons. LaVine’s absence deprived coach Billy Donovan of the opportunity to play the regular rotational minutes he had planned for in his prime. 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 thing. LaVine played well in his limited mobility, especially attacking the rim. He shot 13-for-17 (76.5 percent) and averaged 17 points in 23.7 minutes. “It was nice to have a whole bunch of guys moving the pieces around,” Donovan said. “But it won’t be that way, so others will get some opportunities too.”
— One of those guys was Alex Caruso, who returned after missing two games with a minor right ankle injury. Caruso said he could have played either game if he landed in the regular season and enjoys the defensive chemistry he forms with Torrey Craig and Jevon Carter on the second unit. In fact, Donovan started Ayo Dosunmu for LaVine in an apparent attempt to keep that trio together on the second unit. Caruso finished with seven points and four assists in 18 minutes.
— Through the first quarter, 10-1, the Bulls looked as good as they have all of the preseason offensively. Patrick Williams rose for an emphatic key goal. DeMar DeRozan had a good look on a 3-pointer to feed Nikola Vucevic for a better goal. Overall, the Bulls were more committed to increasing their 3-point attempts. They took 10 in the first quarter alone. This is the good news. The bad news is they only made two, including Williams missing the five.
— Use Donovan Williams and DeRozan as starters to stagger with the second unit. The Timberwolves have been good offensively throughout the preseason and have celebrated the smaller unit that featured Craig as a small-ball center. Andre Drummond missed the game due to personal reasons. The Timberwolves outscored the Bulls’ second unit 16-9 in a nearly 6-minute stretch in the first and second quarters. This is despite playing without Karl-Anthony Towns, who sat out for precautionary reasons. Minnesota still has great size with Rudy Gobert and Naz Reid.
— The second unit fared better in its subsequent periods. Carter and Caruso would routinely tackle the entire field, often at the same time, and you could see how much havoc they could wreak. 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 a Craig assist. DeRozan has been largely quiet offensively during the preseason. But he took advantage of that stretch as the Timberwolves largely played zone. He finished the game with 11 points in 30 minutes.
— Williams, who was pulled early in the last game and challenged Donovan, attempted a dunk over Rudy Gobert in the final minute of the first period. This is one way to answer questions about aggression. Williams fouled the play and knocked down both free throws. Williams entered having attempted four free throws over the first four preseason games. He shot 4-for-4 from the line against Minnesota. He didn’t perform well off the field, finishing 3-for-12, including 0-7 from 3-point range.
“He shot the ball so bad, everyone still felt his presence in the game,” Donovan said. “He made some great passes. He got to the goal and 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 goals in just 20 minutes in the first half, continuing his rise as a star. The bulls took turns defending Edwards, sending several bodies against him. He shot 8-for-13, knocking defenders off multiple screens.
— Vucevic scored his second straight with 20 points and 10 rebounds and appeared in the fourth quarter for the first time this season. The Bulls open the fourth with four starters and Carter against the back end of the Timberwolves roster. They did not take advantage of the opportunity, and played with it even for 4 minutes.
— The Bulls made 30 3-pointers for only the second time in regulation over the five preseason games. (They had 38 points in a double overtime win over the Nuggets but attempted just 29 in regulation.) They shot well down low but flipped the script this time, taking more but by a poor percentage.
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