The Minnesota Timberwolves are seeking back-to-back wins and if accomplished, it will be the first time since a four-game stretch in December that they achieve that feat.
They'll look to do so against a Bulls team that's trending downward as the season comes to an end. Chicago is also searching for back-to-back wins in quite some time. The Bulls have achieved that feat only once since the beginning of February.
The TWolves are 24-43 this season, 16-16 at home and 4-6 in their last ten games. The Bulls are 37-31, 18-15 on the road and 4-6 in their last ten games.
The Bulls are 9-14 since the beginning of last month as they continue to lose key players to injury and Derrick Rose's season hangs in limbo. From everything we've heard from Rose this season, I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't play till 2013-14. He's been quoted as saying that he's leaving his return 'up to God' and also that he won't come back until he's 110%. Since that's mathematically impossible, can we assume he's going to retire? :)
The Bulls could really use a boost right now as the body count on the IR continues to pile up. In addition to Rose, Richard Hamitlon is currently dealing with some back spasms that have him 'out indefinitely'. Kirk Hinrich played last night, but left the game early and didn't return after suffering a thigh bruise, he'll be questionable for this one. Joakim Noah didn't play in the Bulls' win over Indiana last night (87-84) as he's dealing with plantar fasciitis, he's doubtful for this one.
The Wolves continue to play on without Kevin Love (hand), Brandon Roy (knees) and Malcolm Lee (knee/hip). They've gotten quite a bit healthier in the past couple weeks: Andrei Kirilenko & Nikola Pekovic both returned from lengthy absences last week and on Thursday, Chase Budinger played his first game since tearing his lateral meniscus back on Nov. 10th.
In fact, that game on 11/10 was against the Bulls in Chicago. A game that they won 80-87. It was during that game that Chase suffered his knee injury that would keep him out over four months. The injury occurred when Chase was shoved from behind by Taj Gibson & Marco Belinelli underneath the basket. Chase fell to the floor and had to be helped off the court and to the locker room. You can find the play in a recap of that game on Youtube and decide for yourself if it was a dirty play or not. I don't really think so...but I still don't like it!
The Bulls have won their last six meetings against the Wolves, including three-straight games in Minneapolis. The Wolves will look to take advantage of the Bulls' recent struggles on the road (1-5 in their last 6) and the fact that they're undermanned and playing in the second game of a back-to-back set.
Let's take a look at tonight's probable starting lineups...
If Hinrich is unable to play with that thigh bruise, expect Nate Robinson (12.2P, 2.2R, 4.4A, 1.1S) to get the start at point guard and of course, if Joakim Noah (12.1P, 11.4R, 4.1A, 1.2S, 2.2B) is able to play, he'll start at center. Just looking at those stats for Noah, I really didn't know he was putting up those kinds of numbers! Really doing it all for this Rose-less Bulls team.
And that's another thing, with Derrick Rose out, the Bulls have relied VERY heavily on Luol Deng & Joakim Noah. Deng is averaging 38.9mpg, while Noah averages 37.7 a game. As the Bulls season has reached 68 games, that begins to take a big toll on a player, playing those big minutes. Hence the recent string of injuries suffered by a number of Chicago's key players.
The big concerns will be Luol Deng & Carlos Boozer. Without Noah, those two are going to be asked to do it all for the Bulls. Robinson will probably chip in 15 points & Belinelli will add a couple of threes, but if the Bulls are going to pull out a win, it'll be through big games from Luol & Carlos. I also would expect them to play a little harder on D, considering they don't have a lot of offensive firepower to turn to. My guess is this will be a game decided in that late 80s-early 90s final.
That's all for now, tipoff is set for 6pmCT from the Target Center, enjoy the game, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!