Timberwolves hang on for second straight winJan 4, 2009 - 5:24 AM CHICAGO (Ticker) -- A couple of weeks ago, the Minnesota Timberwolves couldn't buy a win. Then again, that was way back in 2008.
The new year has begun in much different fashion than its predecessor for the T-Wolves, who have opened 2009 with consecutive victories, outlasting the Chicago Bulls, 102-92, for their second in a row on Saturday night.
"We have had a tendency to lose games late this year," Minnesota forward Ryan Gomes said. "Tonight we held it together and closed out the game the way you are supposed to."
After a hotly contested ballgame, the T-Wolves finally wrestled control from the Bulls late in the final quarter.
After Derrick Rose's driving layup cut Chicago's deficit to one, Sebastian Telfair responded on the other end with a 17-footer and Gomes followed 40 seconds later with a 3-pointer to push the lead to six.
From then on, the Bulls got desperate with their shot selection and Minnesota was able to close the game out at the foul line. Gomes led the T-Wolves with 19 points, Al Jefferson added 18 and 14 boards and rookie forward Kevin Love came off the bench to contribute 18 and 12.
"Everyone contributed tonight," McHale said. "Love was tremendous and Telfair hit big shots we needed. When you get 40 points off the bench it makes it a lot easier to win games."
The Timberwolves have now won four of six overall - a far cry from where they were around Christmas, when they had dropped 13 in a row before finally snapping the skid on December 26 against the Knicks.
"Our guys have been battling hard as of late," Minnesota head coach Kevin McHale said. "Mentally, you have to have faith in your teammates and these guys are starting to believe in each other and play within a team concept. That's how you win in the NBA."
In this one, they took control early as the Bulls' backcourt of Rose and Ben Gordon struggled from the floor - and got little help elsewhere. The T-Wolves opened the second quarter on a 14-2 run, with Jefferson, Love and Rodney Carney scoring four points apiece in the spurt as the team opened up a 32-19 advantage.
"Our second unit has been doing a great job," Love said. "We just need to keep playing well as a unit."
Chicago finally began to put some pressure on early in the final period. Andres Nocioni hit back-to-back 3-pointers to turn a five-point deficit into a one-point lead at 73-72. Randy Foye answered on the other end with a pair of free throws before Aaron Gray put the Bulls back on top with a dunk.
"I thought we got a good effort out of a lot of the guys," Chicago head coach Vinny Del Negro said. "We gave them too many second-chance opportunities. Working in the paint was not a strong point for us tonight. They had 17 offensive boards and 44 points in the paint. Those are big numbers to overcome."
But Jefferson's short jumper and Foye's three-point play put Minnesota back on top for good. Rose carried the Bulls down the stretch, scoring eight of his 22 points in the final 4:35 of play.
For the Bulls, Saturday's game marks their second straight loss at home. They have struggled on the road all season long but have been surprisingly tough to take down at the United Center. But over the last week, that home-court advantage has weakened.
They got blown out by Orlando at home on New Year's Eve and have now fallen to Minnesota, which picked up just its eighth victory of the season.
"It's been tough," Rose said of the Bulls' recent struggles. "You are going to lose games in the NBA, but it's about how you handle it. I need to watch more film and how to get better."
Gordon collected 17 points and six assists for Chicago but shot just 7-of-21 from the field. Despite shooting just 39 percent (35-of-89) as a team, the Bulls remained in contention thanks to an often-stellar defensive effort as they blocked 14 shots - including a career-high eight from underachieving forward Tyrus Thomas.
CHICAGO 92 FINAL
Jan 3 10:59 PM
CHICAGO 65 END, 3RD QTR
Jan 3 10:23 PM
CHICAGO 38 HALFTIME
Jan 3 9:40 PM
CHICAGO 17 END, 1ST QTR
Jan 3 9:08 PM
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