MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Play after play, Minnesota fed the ball into the post. And no matter how many Chicago defenders were there, the Bulls had no answer for Al Jefferson.
Jefferson scored a season-high 39 points and carried the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 109-108 overtime victory over the Bulls on Sunday night for their ninth win in 11 games.
The Timberwolves organization has made a strong marketing push lately, urging fans to help send Jefferson to the All-Star game. Against the Bulls, Jefferson made a good case.
“I hope he gets in, because he deserves it you know,” Randy Foye said. “He’s the leader of this team, leading scorer, leading rebounder, and we’re one of the hottest teams in the league. … If he doesn’t get in, all of us know that he’s an All-Star from the way he plays.”
Jefferson said he was more concerned about how well the Wolves kept their composure after digging themselves an early 16-point hole.
“To be honest with you, I’m not even thinking about it, man,” Jefferson said of earning a spot on the All-Star team. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, I want to think about it, but I’m just getting it out of my mind.”
With his team struggling from the floor, Jefferson almost single-handedly kept the Wolves in the game. He scored the last four points in regulation to send it to overtime, where Minnesota matched Chicago shot for shot until Foye scored the winning layup with 41.3 seconds to play.
Derrick Rose, who missed a 17-footer at the end of regulation, had another chance to win it in overtime. But he forced an off-balanced attempt that at least two Bulls had a chance to tip. The ball ended up out of bounds in Minnesota’s possession.
“We didn’t convert down the stretch,” Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said. “In regulation and then a couple of plays on overtime, we just couldn’t get the ball in the basket.”
With the win, Minnesota sent Chicago to its fifth straight loss and improved to 9-2 in January, surpassing San Antonio for the league’s best record in 2009.
Rookie Kevin Love added 19 points and a tied a career high with 15 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who completed their biggest comeback of the season.
“We fought back,” Jefferson said. “We didn’t give up.”
Joakim Noah—who bounced back from his scoreless performance against Toronto to score 14 points and had a career-high seven blocked shots—had the unfortunate task of guarding Jefferson for most of the night.
“I don’t even know what to say,” Noah said. “I was playing as hard as I could and he just kept scoring the ball. He’s just a great offensive player and we just couldn’t slow him down tonight.”
The Bulls came out eager to snap their four-game skid and quickly jumped on the Wolves, building a 16-point lead while Minnesota missed its first 11 shots.
Minnesota pulled back into the game, though, by outscoring Chicago 25-9 to tie it at 43.
Bulls F Tyrus Thomas left with a sprained right ankle in the third quarter after getting tangled with Wolves F Craig Smith while going for a loose ball. He returned in the fourth. … Both Rose and Gordon played a little under the weather. Before the game, Gordon was listed as questionable with flulike symptoms. “They both shot around this morning and are feeling a little bit better,” Del Negro said. … Minnesota travels to Milwaukee on Monday for the Bucks’ first game since Sunday’s news that Michael Redd would be lost for the season with torn ligaments in his left knee. “You just feel terrible for him,” Wolves coach Kevin McHale said. Asked if the news affected Minnesota’s preparation for the Bucks, McHale said, “I’ve got a lot more worries about Rose and (Kirk) Hinrich and everybody tonight. I’ll have plenty of angst tomorrow over Milwaukee. Give me one angst at a time please.”