For those holding on to the idea that Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg still was the cuddly ‘‘mayor’’ he was during his days in Ames, Iowa, Saturday offered another reality check of how wrong they are.
After a 102-93 overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves in which the Bulls were held scoreless in the extra period, Hoiberg sounded like anything but a rookie NBA coach.
‘‘I don’t know,’’ an obviously angry Hoiberg said. ‘‘I just don’t understand it. How can you play with as much energy as we did two nights ago [against the Oklahoma City Thunder] and then just expect to show up and win the game? It’s tough to even fathom how that could happen. You get 82 opportunities to put your uniform on and go out and get up for the game and play for your teammate and do everything you can to win, and we didn’t do that [Saturday].’’
Not that this is new for this core group of players. In nationally televised games or against teams with star power, the Bulls have made a habit of playing at an elite level the last few seasons. It’s the teams they are expected to beat that seem to give them the most trouble.
The last week offered a perfect example of that. After allowing 130 points and losing to the Charlotte Hornets by 25 points Tuesday, the Bulls beat the Thunder on Thursday in perhaps their best showing to date under Hoiberg.
But they followed that up with a clunker against the Timberwolves in which Derrick Rose was a minus-21 and Jimmy Butler allowed second-year player Andrew Wiggins to score 31 points.
‘‘Again, I wish I could give you an answer on why that happens,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘I mean, I’d like to think that when I played this game a million years ago that one thing I did is run through a wall every time I’d step on that floor. We’re not doing that on certain nights, for whatever reason. We’ve got to fix it.
‘‘We’ll come in [Sunday] and try to figure it out. We’ll go on the road [Monday] and play a [Philadelphia 76ers] team that will play extremely hard, I know that.’’
Not that the Bulls (4-3) didn’t have their chances in a game that featured 18 lead changes.
With 1:32 left, the Timberwolves’ Nemanja Bjelica tied the score with a free throw. Butler responded by drawing a foul on the other end and making both free throws to give the Bulls a 91-89 lead.
But Wiggins finished off a nifty spin move with an emphatic dunk to tie the score again. Then, after the Bulls missed, Tayshaun Prince made a running left-hander to put the Timberwolves ahead 93-91.
The back-and-forth continued when Pau Gasol (21 points, 14 rebounds) tied the score on a tip-in with 21.5 seconds left. The Timberwolves had a chance to win in regulation, but Wiggins missed a step-back jumper over the outstretched arms of Taj Gibson.
That meant five more minutes of work for both teams, and only one brought the hardhats.
After scoring 29 points against the Thunder, Rose was only 3-for-13
for 11 points against the Timberwolves. He had no real answers about what happened, either.
‘‘It’s all about effort,’’ Rose said. ‘‘We’ll get tired of getting our [butt] whupped one day, but it’s all about just bringing out that championship-caliber effort every night.
‘‘We’ve got to be more consistent. We’ve got to stay together out there. The good thing about this league is that we play again in a couple of days.’’
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