Minnesota Timberwolves at Chicago Bulls
Time: 8:05 PM ET
TV: NBA League Pass
Spread: CHI -6.5
Betting odds c/o Bovada
The Chicago Bulls have been riding a roller coaster, but should be able to take a deep breath now. News broke that Derrick Rose should be back in four-to-six weeks, and Rose compared the pain he felt from the meniscus tear to a “pebble in his shoe,” elucidating that the injury is not as serious as the basketball world tended to think following the injury to his non-surgically repaired knee. The Bulls will play host to the Minnesota Timberwolves on NBA League pass, and NBA live lines at Bovada showed the Bulls as 6.5-point favorites. For an explanation on how to bet NBA odds, see our NBA odds explained.
Rose has not been himself this season; or at least his former self. But he’s shown a lot of flashes, and even if he isn’t the “MVP Rose” he was while the Bulls were at their apex in recent years, he is still a dangerous scorer and a player whose biggest contribution is that he is a constant threat. Many are tossing the blame at Coach Tom Thibodeau for overplaying his starters, and there is a real fear that he could be destroying Jimmy “Buckets” Butler’s knees in much the same fashion he did Rose’s.
The Bulls fell 98-86 to the Charlotte Hornets Wed (Feb 25) night, despite a huge game from Pau Gasol. The Spaniard dropped 25 points, grabbed 13 boards and swatted four shots. Gasol is ruled out for tonight’s game with an illness, however. In the loss, the Hornets put four starters in double-figures while shooting 46 percent and turning the ball over just nine times.
The Bulls were also negative-2 on the boards. Joakim Noah is making bigger contributions than the stat sheet is indicating, and his role within the Bulls offense has changed a lot with the addition of another skilled big in Gasol. Chicago’s depth is what will keep the team in contention, with or without a full-strength Derrick Rose.
Keeping Butler heavily involved is key, however. Butler attempted just 11 field goals in the loss to the Hornets, while he typically takes 14-16 shots per game. Butler is seeing nearly 40 minutes a night, and his numbers are starting to fall off slightly. Is he hitting the wall? Over his last 10 games, Jimmy has averaged 19.2 points, 3.8 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game, all below his season averages. In his previous meeting against the Timberwolves this year, though, he had 24 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steal/blocks. With Rose out, the Bulls are going to need Butler to go to work.
Minnesota welcomed Kevin Garnett back into the fold, and that has been the story of its season. Andrew Wiggins is likely going to win rookie of the year, and given how poor Kevin Love has played since joining the Cleveland Cavaliers, T-Wolves fans are probably pretty happy to have acquired the No. 1 pick from the 2014 NBA Draft instead of plodding forward with a team that has been unable to make the playoffs, even having a guy who was once the best 4-man in the Association.
KG is presumably in Minnesota to serve the role of mentor to Wiggins, dunk contest winner Zach LaVine, and the assortment of young talents on the Wolves’ roster. While Minny may still be a ways off from actual contention, having Garnett aboard to help shape and mold the future of stars like LaVine, Wiggins; and even Ricky Rubio to some extent, is going to help the Wolves immensely. KG is out for tonight’s contest to preserve him for the second night of a back-to-back tomorrow. The Wolves are also without Shabazz Muhammed, and Anthony Bennett is questionable after missing the last two games with a sprained right ankle.
Rubio reportedly wants a max-contract, but there is no logical world in which the Timberwolves reward him with that kind of deal, nor any other team. He’s a dynamic point guard and plus-defender, but has done nothing to warrant receiving that kind of contract yet.