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The Sports Xchange, Published January 27 2014

Timberwolves trump Bulls

CHICAGO – The Minnesota Timberwolves are starting to resemble the team they expected to be heading into the season.

While forward Kevin Love scored 31 points in a 95-86 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Monday night at the United Center, two Minnesota players who missed the majority of the season with injuries provided a spark off the bench.

Forward Ronny Turiaf scored 14 points and forward Chase Budinger added 12. Minnesota (22-22) earned its fourth win in five games. The Timberwolves have not been above .500 since Nov. 23, when they were 8-7.

“We had a really tough schedule to start with, we lost all these close games,” Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said. “It’s a matter of just playing at a certain level. I think that’s what we have to do. We have to play at a certain level game in and game out, and we’re going to start winning our share of games.”

The Timberwolves are 1-11 in games decided by four points or fewer, but that wasn’t an issue Monday. The victory ended Minnesota’s seven-game losing streak to Chicago.

“The difference is now we trust each other,” said Love, who also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds. “We need to get better on the defensive end. We can score with anybody, but we need to play better defensively.”

The matchup offered an extreme clash of styles. Heading into the game, Minnesota ranked second in the league in points scored at 106.8 per game, and Chicago was second to last with a 92.9-point average.

The Timberwolves kept up their usual pace in the first half, building a 54-46 lead at intermission. However, the game slowed to crawl in the second half.

Minnesota shot 53.8 percent from the field in the first half and just 31.6 percent in the third quarter, but the Bulls could only cut one point off their deficit.

To open the fourth quarter, Chicago (22-22) failed to score for nearly four minutes. Meanwhile, a bank shot by Budinger and 3-pointer by forward Corey Brewer boosted the Timberwolves’ lead to 77-65.

The Bulls made a surge in the final two minutes. A put-back by forward Taj Gibson and 3-pointer from point guard D.J. Augustin brought Chicago within 84-79 with 1:29 remaining.

On the other end, Love finished a reverse scoop and then Brewer got a breakaway dunk off a Bulls miss to make it 88-79 with 57.4 seconds remaining.

“We had too many turnovers (15),” Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Turnovers are usually the result of two things – trying to go one-on-one and trying to thread the needle. We just have to hit the first open man.”

Minnesota 23 31 18 23 — 95:

Chicago 20 26 19 21 — 86:

MINNESOTA (95)

Love 8-17 14-14 31, C.Brewer 5-8 0-0 11, Rubio 3-8 3-4 9, Kv.Martin 3-9 1-2 8, Pekovic 0-1 1-2 1, Turiaf 6-7 2-3 14, Budinger 5-7 0-0 12, Barea 2-7 0-0 4, Cunningham 1-4 0-0 2, Dieng 0-2 0-0 0, Shved 1-3 1-1 3, Mbah a Moute 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 34-73 22-26 95.

CHICAGO (86)

J.Butler 5-12 4-4 16, Augustin 6-15 3-4 19, Boozer 9-24 2-2 20, Gibson 4-8 2-2 10, Dunleavy 4-11 0-0 10, Snell 1-7 0-0 2, Mohammed 3-5 3-4 9, M.James 0-3 0-0 0, C.Martin 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 32-85 14-16 86.

3-Point Goals: Minnesota 5-17 (Budinger 2-2, C.Brewer 1-2, Kv.Martin 1-2, Love 1-7, Rubio 0-1, Barea 0-3), Chicago 8-24 (Augustin 4-9, J.Butler 2-4, Dunleavy 2-6, Snell 0-5). Fouled out: None. Rebounds: Minnesota 48 (Love 8), Chicago 50 (Boozer 14). Assists: Minnesota 20 (Barea 7), Chicago 20 (Augustin 6). Total Fouls: Minnesota 14 (Love 4), Chicago 25 (Gibson, Augustin 5). A—21,637.