Bulls 108, Timberwolves 91

Derrick Rose and Kevin Love have played against each other since

their days in AAU ball, worked out together in a steamy Los Angeles

gym over the summer, and became fast friends as they’ve emerged as

the faces of their respective franchises.

Individually, they are on similar paths. In their third seasons,

both have had career years, with Rose emerging as a front-runner

for the MVP award in Chicago and Love leading the league in

rebounding in Minnesota.

Their professional paths are getting further apart by the day,

and Love knows it.

Rose had 23 points and 10 assists in three quarters and the

Bulls blew out the Timberwolves 108-91 on Wednesday night.

Carlos Boozer had 24 points and 14 rebounds and the Bulls

recorded 31 assists on 41 field goals to stay 2 1/2 games ahead of

Boston and Miami in the race for the top seed in the Eastern

Conference.

”They’re all on the same page, everybody,” Love said. ”When

they break from the huddle, everybody’s in. You can tell everybody

has the utmost respect for each other and they’re all in it to win

it. In that regard, I envy that. I salivate for that. I like that a

lot.”

Love had 16 points and nine rebounds, but was limited to 27

minutes in his first game back from a strained left groin. The

Timberwolves (17-58) lost their eighth straight game and have sunk

to the bottom of the West.

The Bulls, who were missing starting center Joakim Noah because

of a sprained right ankle, bounced back in a big way after a

humbling loss to Philadelphia.

Two nights after the 76ers snapped Chicago’s 14-game home

winning streak, the Bulls attacked the Wolves from the start,

playing a beautifully unselfish brand of basketball that was on an

entirely different level than the home team.

”I think we’re getting better, almost every game,” Rose said.

”Last game of course we didn’t do it, but tonight we came out and

played aggressive, played with an edge.”

Rose had 13 points and five assists in the first quarter –

Wolves point guard Luke Ridnour had 11 points and two assists in

the entire game – and Chicago had 17 assists on 22 baskets in the

first half.

The ball movement created wide-open shot after wide-open shot, a

cohesive unit dominating a group of individuals in every way, shape

and form.

”That’s a team right there,” Wolves guard Wayne Ellington

said. ”Them guys play together, man. All the way around. They play

together, communicate. They do it the right way. That’s something

we’ve got to work toward.”

The Bulls shot 50 percent for the game, pulling away in the

third quarter with a 3 by Rose and a drive-and-dish from Luol Deng

to Boozer that gave them an 86-62 lead.

Ever the demanding coach, Tom Thibodeau stayed on his team to

the end, even calling a timeout with a 20-point lead with six

minutes to play when he saw a defensive breakdown. But, for the

most part, he was pleased with the difference he saw in his team

from the start.

”I thought our shootaround was intense, I thought it was

serious,” Thibodeau said. ”I thought our locker room was serious,

and I thought the start of our start of the game was serious. …

We established a defensive mindset, a defensive game plan, and I

think that got us going.”

Rose’s blend of strength, quickness and pure speed has proven

too much for the league to handle, and his selfless attitude has

transformed the Bulls from a middling playoff team to a legitimate

contender and the current No. 1 seed in the East.

”You look at what he’s done with his team, it’s tough to argue

D-Rose isn’t the MVP,” Love said.

He is also exactly what the Timberwolves are missing. Love is a

wonderful supporting player, but they need a leader, a superstar, a

competitor like Rose if they are ever going to lift themselves from

the Western Conference basement.

While Rose had the Bulls humming, with the ball moving, the

defense squeezing and the jumpers falling, the Timberwolves wilted

into a one-on-one mess.

They had just 12 assists for the game and too often settled for

jumpers or wild drives to the basket.

”For whatever reason, it wasn’t there tonight,” Wolves coach

Kurt Rambis said. ”We didn’t bring the effort and intensity and

focus for the vast majority of the ballgame.”

Notes: Technically, two of Love’s 16 points weren’t his. Bulls

forward Taj Gibson knocked the ball into his own basket with just

over eight minutes to play in the second quarter, and Love was

credited as the nearest player to the ball. … Veteran Kurt Thomas

started for Noah and hit his first three jumpers. He finished with

six points and eight rebounds. … Timberwolves C Nikola Pekovic

missed his second straight game with a hip injury.