Target Center was at capacity for Sunday’s matinee, in which the Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the Dwyane Wade- Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic-less Chicago Bulls, 117-89.
Five different players finished with double-digit scoring totals for the Wolves, who held an opponent to under 100 points for the first time in nearly a month. Andrew Wiggins paced the way with 27, Karl-Anthony Towns scored 22, Ricky Rubio added 17, and Shabazz Muhammad and Nemanja Bjelica combined for 38 off the bench.
The Wolves saw the proverbial blood in the water and attacked early, and would the first frame ahead of Chicago by a score of 34-17. This happened thanks in large part to Ricky Rubio, who tallied nine of his 17 points, and four of his 11 assists in the opening quarter.
“The start was important,” president-coach Tom Thibodeau stated afterward.
“We started the last game well, and then we had the lull. This game, we sustained our effort better. It was good.”
Thibodeau later added that he takes no type of extra satisfaction in beating down his former employer, going as far as to say he even roots for his former players — just when they aren’t playing the Wolves. “For me, I’ve been around so there’s a lot of those teams and it’s always hard when you’ve been through things with people and so I really root for that team and those guys – particularly the ones who I’ve coached before – and I want them to do well except when we play against them,” Thibodeau pontificated.
“It’s a great basketball city, it’s a great organization, I had five great years there, so I pull for them when they’re not playing against us.”
“That’s the NBA,” Wiggins said, denying that it was in anyway difficult to stay locked while facing a team missing three of its best players.
“Guys are going to be hurt, or not play some games. We gotta treat each game like every other game, don’t switch nothing up, and stay consistent.”
Asked whether he thinks Thibodeau finds pleasure in defeating Chicago, Wiggins put on a slight grin before saying his coach “has a good way of hiding stuff, that kind of emotion and stuff, but, I’m sure he does.”
“I would if I was him.”
Towns thought he and his teammates did a solid job of staying focused throughout the entire game.
“We did a good job of building a lead real early and, for one of the first times this season, we protected it,” Towns admitted.
Unlike Wiggins, Towns wouldn’t say Thibodeau enjoys beating Chicago more than the next team. Instead, he insists that the Wolves remain steadfast in their goal of reaching the playoffs, where the franchise hasn’t been for more than a decade.
“Every game for us is very big,” Towns said.
“We’re fighting for something. For us to make the playoffs, every game has to be tremendously important — no matter if it’s Chicago, if it’s anybody — we have to go out and find a way to get the W.”