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Alex Caruso’s career-high night lifts Bulls past Timberwolves – NBC Sports Chicago


Alex Caruso’s career-high night lifts Bulls past Timberwolves – NBC Sports Chicago

Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

MINNEAPOLIS — The Chicago Bulls downed the Minnesota Timberwolves 109-101 Sunday night at Target Center to sweep the two-game season series.

Here are 10 observations:

—Try to figure this team out. They lose at home to the lowly Washington Wizards who were shorthanded and then beat the Indiana Pacers at home in an impressive showing. Then they lose in an uninspired effort Friday night at the Brooklyn Nets before storming back to defeat the Western Conference-leading Timberwolves.

“I think when we’re locked in, we can beat anybody in the league,” Alex Caruso said. “It’s just about playing against ourselves, making sure that mentally we’re trying not to rely on giving up a loss to Brooklyn or playing bad against Washington to come back and play well. Just try to stay consistent for the vision that we’re playing for, which is postseason play.”

DeMar DeRozan, who scored nine of his team-high 27 points in the fourth quarter, said this up-and-down nature is frustrating.

“We know our capabilities. We know we can beat anybody. So when we lose the games where Twitter goes crazy on us and says we’re the most confusing team, it’s definitely frustrating because that’s not us,” DeRozan said. “When we perform like we did (Sunday night), that’s who we are. It’s all about being consistent.”

—The Bulls added to their league-leading clutch minutes total and played their 41st clutch game, third-most in the NBA. They tied the Denver Nuggets for the league lead with their 25th clutch victory.

“That shows a lot about our character, our will to keep going, to keep going and not quit and bounce back when things aren’t going our way,” DeRozan said. “You gotta have a group of guys who are all in it together.”

—Caruso sank his first six 3-pointers, which surpassed his career-high of five 3-pointers, and finished 7-for-8 from beyond the arc and 21 points. Caruso joined Ben Gordon (three times), Zach LaVine and Justin Holiday as the only Bulls in franchise history to make five 3-pointers in a half without a miss.

Caruso sank two quick 3-pointers but coach Billy Donovan substituted Torrey Craig for him at the 7 minute, 25 second mark of the first. Caruso is playing through a troublesome left ankle and the Bulls are trying to manage his minutes. But Donovan said Craig isn’t fully healthy either as the knee injury and sprained plantar fascia that troubled him earlier this season are still causing mild irritation.

—The Bulls led from the 5:11 mark of the first until 5:21 in the fourth, falling behind when Rudy Gobert grabbed an offensive rebound and scored on a three-point play. The Bulls’ defensive rebounding dried up in the fourth. On the ensuing possession, Nikola Vucevic committed the Bulls’ 16th turnover and then a transition take foul on Kyle Anderson. Anthony Edwards buried the free throw, but DeRozan stole the ball on the ensuing possession for a fastbreak layup.

“I was really impressed with the way our guys responded and didn’t fold,” Donovan said. “Not to say we weren’t in jeopardy of losing the game but I liked the way we constantly kept responding on both ends. That was really encouraging to me.”

Added DeRozan: “We knew they were going to make a run. But we didn’t let that knock us off our rhythm any type of way. We stayed with it, understood what we had to do and made some big plays.”

—One of those big plays was a Coby White driving layup with 2 minutes, 3 seconds left for a seven-point lead and then a White 3-pointer in the final minute that gave him 200 for the season. White sank four 3-pointers and scored the Bulls’ final five points.

White joined Zach LaVine as the only Bulls in franchise history to make 200 3-pointers in a season. LaVine (204, 200) has done it twice. White is five makes away from new franchise record. He shot 6-for-10 overall after entering just 28-of-81 over his last five games.

“Do I think some of the shooting is fatigue? Yes, I do. But it’s not going away because the games are going to keep on coming,” Donovan said. “We all have to figure out a way to help him. He’s gotta figure out a way to help himself. And the bottom line is this is the NBA, it’s 82 games and we have to get over it.

—The Bulls’ defense did a solid job for much of the contest on Anthony Edwards, forcing him into six turnovers and zero 3-pointers. Edwards, being as good as he is, still finished with 22 points on 9-for-20 shooting with 11 rebounds and five assists. But Caruso finished with five steals.

“We talked about: Can we defend Edwards without fouling him? If Alex was in any level of jeopardy, we had good verticality at the rim and some help there,” Donovan said. “But him getting over pick-and-rolls, handling post-ups, handling him in the midrange, moving his feet. . . . he was amazing. And then when he did get into some tough spots, we had good support when we needed it.

—The Bulls matched their 3-point total from Friday’s dismal loss at the Brooklyn Nets late in the first half. They sank nine of their first 13 3-point attempts after shooting 9-for-30 on Friday. They finished 17-for-29 from 3-point range for 58.6 percent.

—Rudy Gobert dunked home a first-quarter hoop, which prompted the NBC Sports Chicago production team to flash a wild statistic on the broadcast: Gobert has more dunks than the Bulls do as a team.

—Nikola Vucevic moved from puncher to peacemaker in the first half. Following a first-half turnover that Mike Conley Jr. converted at the other end, Vucevic angrily punched a chair during the ensuing timeout. But when Caruso and Gobert got tangled up at the end of the first half on a physical boxout from Caruso that Gobert took exception to, Vucevic rushed in to separate the players.

—The Bulls overcame 16 turnovers that led to 17 points for the Timberwolves. But they, too, were opportunistic, turning 15 Minnesota turnovers in 21 points.

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