Sometimes logic takes a vacation in the NBA.
On Thursday, the Bulls outplayed a star-studded Oklahoma City squad in the fourth quarter and pulled out a quality win.
Two days later, a young Minnesota Timberwolves squad arrived at the United Center, and the Bulls seemed to be in decent shape with a 6-point lead midway through the fourth. But the rest of the game felt like the Bulls were on the wrong end of a goal-line stand.
With first-and-goal at the 1-yard line, they ran into a brick wall on four tries, got a second chance, then failed four more times.
The Bulls simply could not solve Minnesota's defense down the stretch. They made just 1 of their last 20 shots, were shut out in overtime for the first time in franchise history and lost 102-93.
"I just don't understand it, how you can play with as much energy as we did two nights ago and then just to expect to show up, I guess, and win the game," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "I don't know. It's tough to even fathom how that can happen.
"You get 82 opportunities to put your uniform and go out and get up for the game, play for your teammates and do everything you can to win. We didn't do that tonight."
Hoiberg is a first-year coach, but basing effort on the quality of the opponent has been a Bulls problem for a few years. Last season especially the Bulls made a habit of losing to subpar teams at home. Maybe Minnesota will end up having a good season, but for now this counts as a bad loss.
Derrick Rose did most of the fourth-quarter scoring against Oklahoma City. He didn't score at all down the stretch against Minnesota, finishing with 11 points on 3-of-13 shooting.
"It's all about effort. We'll get tired of getting our butt whupped one day," Rose said. "It's all about just bringing out that championship-caliber effort every night. We've got to stay more consistent. We have to stay together while we're out there."
Rose wasn't the only one who struggled. Jimmy Butler went 4-for-15 from the field. Nikola Mirotic was 1-for-8. Pau Gasol led the Bulls with 21 points and 14 rebounds.
Gasol, who won two championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, had some pointed words in the locker room.
"There are certain things you have to bring every night in the NBA in order to win games, and we didn't bring that tonight," Gasol said. "We allowed them to hang around all game long and at the end we paid the price.
"We've got to make up our minds on what we want to do going forward, what kind of team we want to be. Do we want to be an up-and-down team and a team that does OK but doesn't really have a chance to win a title?
"So far, that's what we're showing."
Early in the game, the defense was lacking, but the Bulls (4-3) managed to secure a 58-57 lead at halftime. The complexion changed completely in the second half, with the Bulls shooting just 25.9 percent from the field while scoring 36 points,
The Bulls seemed to be in decent shape when a Tony Snell 3-pointer put them ahead 89-83 with 6:31 remaining, but that's when the deep freeze struck. The Bulls didn't score for the next 5:20 and missed their next 10 shots.
Fortunately for the Bulls, Minnesota went just 2-for-6 at the foul line during the drought. The Timberwolves did take a 93-91 edge with 27.3 seconds left on a running hook by veteran Tayshaun Prince, but Gasol tipped in a Mirotic miss with 21.5 seconds remaining. Andrew Wiggins air-balled a tough 20-foot corner jumper with Taj Gibson in his face as time expired in the fourth quarter.
Why the Bulls stopped scoring was tough to figure, but they clearly didn't bring the right intensity from the opening tip.
"I wish I could give you an answer on why that happens," Hoiberg said. "I like to think when I played this game a million years ago, one thing I did was run through a wall every time I stepped on the floor and we're not doing that on certain nights, for whatever reason.
"We've got to fix it."
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