Bulls 96, Wolves 89: It was 90’s Night at the United Center

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Credit for this 1995 photo goes to Timberwolvestimeline.com

It was 90’s night in the United Center. In a perfect world, such a night would have coincided with Kevin Garnett’s first road game as a returned member of the Timberwolves. But, despite the nice digs the United Center bring, it’s still not a perfect world, and Kevin Garnett opted to rest tonight in preparation for tomorrow’s home game. To be fair, neither Michael Jordan nor Luc Longley suited up for Chicago, so the playing field was evened out a bit.

Garnett or no Garnett, there was still a game to be played. But early on, it was pretty clear that they could have used The Big Ticket, especially defensively. The Bulls had no problem getting to the rim early on, highlighted by a pair or easy Taj Gibson buckets. Adriean Payne, who got the start in KG’s absence, had lots of troubles with Gibson in that quarter. Unfortunately, Gibson would leave (and not return to) the game just minutes later with an ankle injury.

Points in the paint remained an issue for the entirety of the first game, with the Bulls dominating that category 18-4 (both interior buckets coming from Payne) in the first half, and 48-16 overall. The Wolves still kept it relatively interesting, fueled by Andrew Wiggins and the rest of the starting lineup, who combined for 36 of the team’s 44 first half points.

The second half, as mentioned, was more of the same for the Wolves’ issues guarding the paint, but they still managed to make it an up-and-down score throughout the second half. They even put together an 85-84 lead somewhat late in the 4th quarter, but ultimately, good ball movement by the Bulls allowed the Bulls to slowly pull away in the game’s final 3 minutes.

The Bulls didn’t get good production from too many people, but a combined 49 points from Jimmy Butler and Mike Dunleavy on 19/37 shooting was enough. Butler disrupted the Wolves all night, no matter who was on him. Even Andrew wiggins had struggles on both ends against the favorite for the NBA’s Most Improved Player. He took advantage of post-up situations on switches, while Dunleavy made smart motion off the ball and shot when he had good looks. It’s what has made them one of the more impressive and under-the-radar wing duos in the league this year.

Andrew Wiggins had a solid first quarter, but foul trouble and issues with Butler held him from taking over much afterwords. It was mostly Kevin Martin and Ricky Rubio who put up a majority of the scoring for the Wolves. Rubio had a lot of open looks throughout the night, as his defenders still don’t seem to respect his mid-range jumper. He only shot 5/14, but his impact in the scoring column was refreshing for the most part.

One more thing: I covered the game live from Chicago, something I had never covered outside the Target Center as a member of the media. It was a great experience, and the Bulls were more than accommodating. Here are a few observations I had along the way:

  • Their arena is absolutely beautiful. Statues on the outside for both the Bulls and the Blackhawks, and a really nice interior. Makes me all the more excited for the Target Center renovations to complete.
  • My seat was in the upper level, but was right at center court and still a great view. Plus, they had TVs showing Family Feud before the game began. That was pretty great.
  • Again, it was 90’s night tonight, which is always going to be a fun evening for Bulls fans. They had a fun back then.
  • Speaking of the 90’s, I thought the wallpaper in the locker room/media room area hallway was pretty cool.
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  • The media room coffee here is excellent.
  • I will be coming back next year. This was a lot of fun.
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