The Minnesota Timberwolves and Chicago Bulls both are coming off close losses as they prepare to deal with their individual frustrations when they meet Friday at Chicago.
In the thick of a tight Western Conference playoff picture, Minnesota (35-35) will search for a route forward, while Chicago (31-37) tries to stay in the hunt for a spot in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament.
After trailing visiting Boston by 14 in the third quarter Wednesday, the Timberwolves slashed the deficit to two points with 4:03 remaining but couldn’t close the gap any further. Mike Conley’s 3-pointer for the Timberwolves in the closing seconds provided the final margin in a 104-102 defeat.
Referees whistled Minnesota for four technical fouls in the game, including a pair against Anthony Edwards and Kyle Anderson in the final stages following a controversial jump ball.
“It was really rough out there,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “It felt a little unbalanced at times.”
Edwards kept Minnesota afloat with 28 points and 10 rebounds.
“I like the way we fought tonight,” said Minnesota’s Rudy Gobert, who had 15 points. “The way we stayed locked in on defense, playing defensively. Not having a lot of things going our way. But we, for the most part, kept our composure.”
Minnesota has lost three of four on the heels of a three-game winning streak, with each defeat during that span coming on its home floor. Heading into NBA play Thursday, the Timberwolves were tied for seventh in the Western Conference, one game behind the Golden State Warriors.
Friday begins a three-game road trip for the Timberwolves, as well as a stretch that will see the team play six of its next seven away from the Twin Cities. Minnesota is 15-18 on the road this season but enters play with a four-game road winning streak. The latest away victory was a 136-115 thumping of East playoff hopeful Atlanta on Monday.
The Bulls fell a half-game behind Washington for the last spot in the East play-in tournament with Wednesday’s 117-114 loss to the Sacramento Kings. The Kings’ De’Aaron Fox drilled a 3-pointer with 0.7 seconds to go to send Chicago to its third loss in five games.
“It sucks,” said the Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan, who paced the team with 33 points, including a four-point play that tied the game with 12.5 seconds to go. “We gotta keep pushing, keep fighting.
“You can’t let it discourage you too much where you feel like it’s over with. We understand we still have an opportunity. We’re going to play this thing out until we can’t anymore.”
Zach LaVine (25 points) and Nikola Vucevic (20) followed for the Bulls, who were without Alex Caruso (non-COVID illness).
LaVine missed his first six shots of the game to finish 7-for-22 from the floor. It was the second time in nine games since the All-Star break that LaVine was held under 50 percent from the field.
“I started off terrible,” LaVine said. “We all missed a lot of easy shots, open 3s, wide-open layups.”
Chicago has a three-game home winning streak against Minnesota. The Timberwolves have won six of the last 10 games in the series, including a 150-126 home rout on Dec. 18. Edwards had 37 points and 11 assists, while DeRozan led Chicago with 29 points.
–Field Level Media