The Chicago Bulls are used to playing with injuries, but there comes a point when it’s too difficult to make up for some of them. Joakim Noah didn’t play against the Minnesota Timberwolves, which made things quite easy for Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and a very surprising Ronny Turiaf.
Noah not playing meant that Taj Gibson and Carlos Boozer teamed up in the frontcourt, and left only Nazr Mohammed to help off from the bench. The Bulls weren’t hurt on the boards, but they were jilted defensively without their anchor, while looking horrible offensively, shooting 37.6% from the field without their smartest player and best passer who makes up for their limitations at point guard.
The Timberwolves have different issues to deal with – a point guard who isn’t much of a scoring threat and their defensive struggles. However, none of these really showed up against the Bulls. Rubio did score only 9 points, but it didn’t really matter. He worked great off the pick & roll, making life very easy for Kevin Love with 31 points and 8 rebounds, including going 14-of-14 from the line. The most surprising contributor was Ronny Turiaf, scoring 14 points and adding 7 rebounds, getting plenty of time on the floor after Nikola Pekovic left the game early due to an Achilles problem.
He stepped up when Pekovic went out, and he brings a lot. He brought everything he had. They had some people out too, but we knew it was going to be a physical game. We knew how they were going to play, and I thought we responded pretty well.
This was Turiaf’s highest scoring game since he scored 19 points on Jan. 11, 2011, for the New York Knicks against the Portland Trail Blazers.
My goal this year, regardless of the situation, is just to go out there and have some fun. No matter how much or how little I play, I just want to have fun.
For the Bulls, it was about trying not make excuses for Noah missing, but there’s no doubt that at some point, all these missing players make you pay a price this team simply can’t handle anymore.
He’s an All-Star. You’re going to feel it. He was playing real phenomenal. He’s one of the vocal leaders, rebounding, playing defense, controlling the offensive end and making plays for guys. When you lose a guy like Jo your margin for error is smaller. We can get it done. You’ve got to give Minnesota credit. They’re playing real well right now. We can never lose sight of how hard we have to play. We can’t play hard for 32 minutes. We have to play hard the whole game.
The game was a meeting between the second best scoring offense in the NBA and the second best scoring defense. The Bulls did hold the Timberwolves to 11 points below their average, but couldn’t generate any offense, which meant Minnesota won for only the second time this season while scoring fewer than 109 points on the road (2-11). It came without anyone of the key players but Love having a big game, as Corey Brewer finished with 11, Kevin Martin added 8 and Pekovic scored only 1 point before leaving the game.