A unit consisting of J.J. Barea, Zach LaVine, Chase Budinger, Anthony Bennett and Gorgui Dieng were on the floor for the final five minutes of Friday's game in St. Louis vs. the Chicago Bulls.
The Bulls held a 12-point lead and the Wolves appeared to be well on their way to a preseason finale loss. J.J. Barea and Company had other plans. They battled on both ends and over the next three minutes they cut into the lead and with 2:05 to play, Anthony Bennett hit the go-ahead basket to make it 107-106. Two free throws from LaVine with 4.2 seconds to play made it 113-109.
Out of a timeout, Mike Dunleavy hit a turnaround, fadeaway three-pointer, well behind the three-point line. They fouled Thaddeus Young on the inbounds play and he stepped to the line with 0.8 seconds to go with a 113-112 lead. He missed the first free throw. Chicago had no timeouts remaining, so Young missed the second free throw on purpose and a last second Dunleavy heave from three-quarters-court clanged off the backboard as the Wolves escaped with a narrow one-point lead.
The Timberwolves finished their 2014 Preseason with a 5-2 record and finished with a four-game winning streak.
Ricky Rubio led the way for the Timberwolves. He played his best game of the preseason and was very aggressive looking for his shot. He finished with a team-high 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting. He was definitely confident offensively in this one. Hopefully he uses this game as a springboard moving forward and continues this aggressive play. Ricky also added 2reb, 5ast, 2stls, 3tos, 1fl in 26 minutes.
Thaddeus Young looked good in this one. He struggled a bit dribbling the ball and turned the ball over a few too many times (4tos), however he was en fuego from deep and hit four three-pointers. He finished with 17pts, 2reb, 5stls, 1blk, 4tos, 2fls, 6-10 FG, 4-5 3PT, 1-4 FT in 27 min. He was very impressive defensively. He's going to have nights where he struggles to match up with big men like Pau Gasol. Thad is stronger than he looks and despite being undersized his quickness and athleticism more than make up for those deficiencies. I can't tell you how many times I've watched the Wolves in preseason action and thought (or said) to myself, "Man it's nice to have a power forward who actually tries on defense!" Young won't be the offensive talent that Love was for Minnesota, however his contributions on defense will be a welcome addition for a team lacking interior presence for quite some time now.
Anthony Bennett continued his awesome preseason. He was a part of that unit that brought the Wolves back for the win. He scored 17 points and added 6 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 foul, 6-10 FG and 5-7 FT in 21 minutes off the bench. He's a completely different player from a year ago and showing the potential and ability that made him the #1 pick a year ago. He could be in for a VERY big (bounce back) season with Minnesota. If he continues to produce like he has in the preseason, Flip will find him plenty of playing time.
The Bulls were led by Derrick Rose who scored a game-high 27 points on a number of different ways: floaters around the basket, dunks, layups, mid-range pull ups, three-point bombs. Rose did it in every way and looked like the player of old that became the youngest MVP ever. The Bulls have been successful sans-Rose the past couple years. With a healthy Rose and the addition of players like Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic, the Bulls are most certainly contenders in 2014-15. The only concern I have is the production on the wings. With Luol Deng gone, they'll be relying heavily on Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Doug McDermott and Tony Snell. If one or two of those guys can have a breakout season, I would actually pick them over the Cavaliers to come out of the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately, there's still A LOT of questions for the Bulls heading into the regular season.
Mike Dunleavy added 17pts & 5reb. Taj Gibson came off the bench and dumped in 14 points while snagging 11 rebounds in 31 minutes. With Jimmy Butler sitting because of a sprained thumb, Kirk Hinrich started at shooting guard and finished with 14 points & 3 assists.
The Wolves shot a scorching 51.9% from the field (41-79) as well as 57.1% from deep (8-14). There's no way the Wolves are going to be able to shoot like that on a consistent basis, which means they need to improve in other areas. For instance, the Bulls out-reobounded the Wolves 38-50. Minnesota gave up a lot of second chance points to Chicago. Rebounding will be a concern for the Wolves this season--especially when they face teams with big frontlines like Chicago (Pau Gasol & Joakim Noah).
The preseason has now wrapped up and the Wolves will play their first regular season game this coming Wednesday (10/29) vs. the Grizzlies in Memphis. They'll follow that up on Thursday with their home-opener vs. the Detroit Pistons. Both of those games will tip at 7pmCST.
Cody D. Anderson
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