Contributor to CSNChicago.com
MINNEAPOLIS — The opponent was new, but the Bulls used an old formula to win their sixth-consecutive game on Wednesday night.
Guard D.J. Augustin provided a scoring spark off the bench, and center Joakim Noah played physical defense to pair with his efficient offense, recording his seventh-career triple-double. Those two, combined with six Bulls scoring in double figures helped the Bulls extend their winning streak to six games, defeating Minnesota, 102-87, at the Target Center in Minneapolis.
“The first half was a little sluggish for us, the rebounding was poor, our defense wasn’t very good,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Second half, I thought those got a lot better. I thought D.J. and Taj (Gibson) played at a real high level, along with Jo. Mike Dunleavy was solid throughout. I thought (Kirk) Hinrich set the tone at the start of the game with his aggressiveness, so we had a number of guys step up that played great.”
With the win, the Bulls (46-32) remain locked in a tie with Toronto for third place in the Eastern Conference. The Raptors, who hold the tiebreaker over Chicago for the No. 3 seed, defeated the lowly Sixers, 125-114, on Wednesday.
The Bulls shot 50 percent from the field and 11-for-21 from 3-point range to counter the Timberwolves’ (39-39) high-scoring offense. They turned a 53-48 halftime deficit into a 54-53 lead early in the third quarter and outscored Minnesota 43-27 over the final 18 minutes.
Noah finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds and 10 assists and led the turnaround, along with Hinrich, who scored nine points on a perfect 4-for-4 shooting in the third quarter.
Augustin paced the Bulls with 21 points, including nine in a second quarter when the Timberwolves outscored Chicago by six, 28-22. He has been key for the Bulls since they acquired him in December and has averaged 17.1 points in the Bulls' last 10 games.
“We wouldn’t be in this position without D.J.,” Noah said. “I feel like I have really good chemistry with him, and I think the rest of this team feels that way, too.”
Jimmy Butler led Chicago with 46 minutes Wednesday and finished with 14 points, five rebounds, seven assists and zero turnovers.
“Whoever gets a hot hand, that’s where Jimmy’s going,” Thibodeau said. “The way he’s playing —he made three 3's — he’s put a lot of extra time into his shooting but also his playing making.”
Chicago has now won eight of its past nine games. It has four games remaining this season to pass Toronto and appears to have found its confidence after struggling to start the season.
“I really think we are just learning from our mistakes,” Gibson said. “Everybody is just stepping up when we are down great players.”