Sweet Home Chicago: Timberwolves-Bulls Preview

Where: United Center. (Don’t worry; I won’t ask you to book a flight.)

When: 7pm

See It: My29 and WGN

Hear It: WCCO 830AM

Whether it’s the Robert Johnson original, or a Buddy Guy cover, “Sweet Home Chicago” is one of my favorite blues standards. I don’t really know what it is, but I enjoy it very much in pretty much any version. And by all accounts, although I’ve never been there myself, Chicago is a pretty great place to be in.

Well, except for the Timberwolves who haven’t won there since January 25th, 2009. Ok, they haven’t beaten the Bulls at Target Center since then, either. During that five game losing streak, they’ve lost by an average of 15.8 points.

You’d think, however, that with Derrick Rose out for the time being that tonight is the night they reverse the trend right? Not so fast.

(More below the jump)

Despite Rose’s absence and the breakup of the bench mob, they’ve managed to ride the league’s 2nd ranked team in Defensive Rating, and a fifth overall ranking in opponents points per game to a 3-2 start. You can get away with starting 18th in Offensive Rating if your opponent can’t score either.

The Bulls come into tonight’s game against the Timberwolves coming off of a six point loss to the Thunder, and the Wolves come into town on the second night of a back-to-back, not a wonderful circumstance going against a tough defensive team. The Wolves are coming off of a thrilling last-second victory against Indiana, but depleted too, as they are without Brandon Roy and JJ Barea as well.

To be clear, the Timberwolves are going into 1) The second night of a back-to-back on the road and will try to win without 2) Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Brandon, and Barea against 3) a very good defensive team. This sounds “promising”.

And if Brandon Roy cannot go tonight, a real possibility, then look for Chase Budinger to slide in at the two-guard spot. While the sample size for Budinger is much smaller as a starter, his numbers are similar, if not slightly better in some cases. In 35 career starts Chase has averaged 13.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg and 2.1 apg on .461/.386/.879 shooting. He’s still come off of the bench 180 times in his career, so I’d expect his FG% and 3pt% to come down just a little closer to his career averages, but he is certainly more than capable of stepping in for Brandon here and there.

(Chase has also fared pretty well on zero nights rest over the course of his career, for what it’s worth.)

This will be two nights in a row that the Timberwolves will catch a team without their star player, but like last night, this will have to be a hard fought game without their own two stars. Coming in on the road, even with the momentum they have, won’t be an easy task since they also don’t have their own best players, and Chicago is still good. The Wolves will need another box score that looks like last night’s if they want to call the United Center “Sweet Home” after the final buzzer sounds.

Starting Fives:

Kirk Hinrich – PG – Luke Ridnour

Rip Hamilton – SG – Chase Budinger (projected)

Luol Deng – SF – Derrick Williams

Carlos Boozer – PF – Andrei Kirilenko

Joakim Noah – C – Nikola Pekovic


About Derek James

In addition to writing for Howlin' T-Wolf, Derek James writes about basketball Hardwood Paroxysm in the ESPN TrueHoop Network and covers the Charlotte Bobcats for SB Nation’s Rufus on Fire. Andray Blatche and Isaiah Rider follow him on Twitter.